Ball State (11-9, 3-5 MAC) bounced back from their home overtime loss last Saturday by defeating the Northern Illinois Huskies( 6-13, 0-7 MAC) 81-71. This gives the Cardinals a two-game win streak.
Here are four takeaways from the win.
Crashing the glass on both ends
Throughout the entire game, the Cardinals outrebounded the Huskies from the jump. Northern Illinois’ backcourt was much smaller than the Cardinals, so boxing out was much simpler for junior guards Jalin Anderson and Davion Bailey, combining for 11 rebounds in today's game.
If the guards were having a field day on the glass, then of course the Cardinal faithful probably expected their leading rebounder, junior forward Basheer Jihad, to have an outing on the boards. Jihad rose to the occasion by pulling down 14 rebounds in today's game.
The Cardinals' rebounding performance helped them create shot opportunities with a quick pace, with some of those defensive rebounds leading to fast breaks that ended up in a charity stripe visit. This put the Cardinals in a very comfortable lead during the game.
Not only getting to the line but taking advantage of it
The Cardinals took advantage of getting to the paint and drawing contact. With help from the frontcourt creating space for more levels to score, the Cardinals made their way to the free-throw line twice as much as the Huskies.
Getting into the bonus earlier on in the game, the Cardinals made it a priority to knock down free throws as it could end up being the reason teams win or lose the game. The Cardinals shot twice as many free throws as the Huskies and more importantly, made 88 percent (23-for-26) of them as the Huskies shot 69 percent ( 9-for-12) from the line.
This was an improvement for the Cardinals as they usually shoot around 76 percent from the line.
Passing the rock around
The Cardinals made it clear one of the main keys to the game was to move the ball as much as possible. The Cardinals did so, leading them to have ten more assists than the Huskies.
Jihad made it easy for the Cardinals' backcourt to dish out dimes as he went on to be the most-assisted player with 28 points in the game. Anderson led the team in assists with six, the same amount of assists that the Huskies had in the entire contest.
Containing the two-headed monster
Going into the matchup with Northern Illinois, the Cardinals were well aware of the fact that the Huskies average around 80 points per game led by two junior guards David Coit and Zarique Nutter. Coit and Nutter make up for about 35 of that 80 points per game, so making sure they didn't get a hot hand early on in the game was a must.
As halftime came, the Cardinals held Coit to 11 points and 27 percent (3-from-11) from the field to halt the Huskies offense. For Nutter, it was even worse going into the half. Redshirt junior forward Mickey Pearson guarded Nutter through the first half, holding him to seven points and shooting 30 percent (3-for-10) from the field.
The Huskies' backcourt started to pick up the pace and got hot as the game went on in the second half. Coit and Nutter combined for 45 points, but by then, the Cardinals’ already had a substantial lead on the Huskies with their seven-man rotation.
With the win in the books, the Cardinals look to refocus in the next three days and improve their conference two-game-winning streak to three games as they take on the Bowling Green Falcons (14-6, 5-3 MAC) at home on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.
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