Ball State clears 11-point hurdle; defeats Buffalo on the road

Redshirt junior forward Mickey Pearson Jr. shoots the ball for two Jan. 20 against Miami at Worthen Arena. Pearson scored 16 points in the game. Isaiah Wallace, DN.
Redshirt junior forward Mickey Pearson Jr. shoots the ball for two Jan. 20 against Miami at Worthen Arena. Pearson scored 16 points in the game. Isaiah Wallace, DN.

In Ball State’s last two Mid-American Conference (MAC) games, 11 points have come up two different times. Against Miami (9-10, 3-4 MAC) on Saturday, Jan. 20, the Cardinals led by that number with five minutes left in the contest. However, the Redhawks rallied and stole the win in overtime. 

In tonight's game against Buffalo (2-16, 1-5), the red and black found themselves down 8-0 in the first two minutes following four straight Bulls baskets. After Ball State (10-9, 2-5 MAC) head coach Michael Lewis took a timeout, the magic number appeared as the white and blue sank a three-point shot, extending their lead to 11-0. 

“You got a scouting report and you know what these guys do,” Lewis said. “If you allow them to do what they want to do, you start down 11-0.” 

However, three minutes later, the Cardinals tied the game 16-16. The offensive effort that sparked during the comeback never halted, giving Ball State the 87-59 victory. 

“It was a good bounce-back game,” junior Mickey Pearson said. “We wanted a well-rounded performance. So given that, I’m feeling good about [tonight].” 

The hole that Ball State found itself in was due to a few things. For starters, Buffalo seemed to be best friends with the baskets at Alumni Arena. The second item that helped the home squad was their ability to shoot from deep. They started the game 4-for-6 (66 percent) and finished the match 10-for-33 (30.3 percent) 

After Ball State found their rhythm on offense, the Bulls never found a way to catch up. During the rest of the first half, the Cardinals went 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) and found success from three-point range as they went 7-for-15 (46.7 percent). They finished the game 31-for-61 (50.8 percent) and 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) from deep.

Yet the perimeter shooting was something that Lewis did not want to see. He said the Cardinals prepared to go on the attack inside the paint. However, Ball State eventually reunited with the plan and discovered they could force their way to the basket, finishing the win with 40 points in the paint. They also grabbed 46 rebounds, a season high.  

“They could have dropped their heads and tucked their tails and they didn't,” Lewis said. “They came back, responded, and had control of the game by halftime.” 

The Cardinals executed in many categories, but their ability to share the basketball became a pivotal force. Buffalo only had one player in double-figures – senior Sy Chatman had 27 points – which was not the case for Ball State. The red and black had five players score over ten points and finished the game with 16 assists. 

“When we have good movement and share the basketball, our offense is pretty good,” Lewis said. “[We have issues] when we get to yo-yo-ing it and try to do too much with the basketball.”

Junior Basheer Jihad led the way with 20 points and Mickey Pearson followed with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Other Cardinals that found success were junior Jalin Anderson with 12 points and five steals, freshman Trent Middleton with 10 points, and redshirt junior Ben Hendriks also recorded 10 points. 

For Hendriks, it was even more special as Buffalo is less than two hours away from his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Because of that, he had multiple family members attend the game.

“It’s always nice to play in front of family,” Hendriks said. “It's great that I'll be able to talk to them for a little bit.”

Even though there were positives which included the multiple scorers and positive stats, there were mistakes. Ball State finished the game with 15 turnovers and 15 personal fouls. 

“We got a little sloppy and a little careless [in the second half],” Lewis said. “Coaches never want to see that even though stuff like that is going to happen.” 

The win puts Ball State back in the win column. Yet Lewis doesn’t know what it means for the future. He brought up the end of the Miami game and explained how many times the Cardinals had practiced the situation. To him, that’s the nature of the beast. 

“You hope [this win helps], but you're dealing with 18 to 22-year-old kids,” Lewis said. “ You never know what's going on in their mind… During the end of the [Miami] game, it was ‘coach, I just blanked’ and that’s what you're dealing with… And that’s why I love what I do. It can be frustrating, but it's very rewarding.” 

Ball State will look to make it a winning streak when they face Northern Illinois in Muncie on Saturday, Jan. 27. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

Contact Zach Carter with comments at or on X @ZachCarter85.


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