Three takeaways from Ball State men's basketball's loss against Western Michigan

Junior guard Jalin Anderson circumvents the opposing team Jan. 20 against Miami at Worthen Arena. Anderson scored 13 points in the game. Isaiah Wallace, DN.
Junior guard Jalin Anderson circumvents the opposing team Jan. 20 against Miami at Worthen Arena. Anderson scored 13 points in the game. Isaiah Wallace, DN.

Ball State men’s basketball had its most direct chance to move into the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament picture against Western Michigan. The Cardinals and Broncos sat just one game apart in the standings, at ninth and eighth place, respectively. 

With a Ball State win, the red and white would have moved into eighth place with just two games remaining in the regular season. Riding a 79-71 defeat of Central Michigan and having previously defeated the Broncos on the road Feb. 3, the Cardinals were even favored by 6.5 points.

However, it was not to be. Western Michigan handed Ball State its seventh conference home loss of the season with a 78-76 overtime victory off one of the craziest buzzer beaters of the college basketball season. 

Inconsistent shot selection and injury concerns keeps first half close

After junior guard Jalin Anderson hit Ball State’s first shot of the game with a 3-pointer at the 19:27 mark, the Cardinals missed their next seven attempts. Conversely, Western Michigan missed its first five field goals before hitting three straight baskets to take an early 6-3 lead heading into the first timeout.

Out of the timeout, redshirt junior center Ben Hendriks broke Ball State’s cold spell with a layup of his own off the bench. On the next offensive possession, redshirt junior forward Mickey Pearson Jr. followed suit. 

The Broncos and Cardinals traded blows in the following minutes, with each team finding more success as time progressed. However, at the 11 minute mark, in the midst of a near three-minute scoring drought, Hendriks landed hard on his leg and couldn’t put weight on it after. He needed assistance off the court as he hopped to the bench.

Less than a minute later, junior forward Basheer Jihad hit the floor and was slow to return to his feet. He slowly made his way off the court and through the tunnel.

This led to freshman Jurica Zagorsak earning more than one minute of action off the bench for the first time since Feb. 17. 

After this break, Ball State went on a 7-0 run to grab a 18-16 lead with less than eight minutes of play.

Jihad returned to the court with seven minutes remaining in the first half, but the Broncos soon took the lead back.

Western Michigan started the first half 0-7 from beyond the arc, but with less than three minutes remaining, redshirt junior B. Artis White and sophomore Jefferson De La Cruz Monegro hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Broncos ahead by seven for the largest deficit of the half. 

Yet it was Jihad who responded with a 3-ball of his own to cut it back to a two-possession game. 

By the time the buzzer sounded to signal halftime, Western Michigan led 32-26. 

Broncos use dominant paint presence to control pace


Ball State head Coach Micheal Lewis yells for movement from his team against Eastern Michigan Feb. 24 at Worthen Arena. Ball State lost to Eastern Michigan 58-56. Andrew Berger, DN

As the Cardinals walked back to the locker room at halftime, head coach Michael Lewis was visibly frustrated with Pearson, who allowed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw before the buzzer. These woes continued after the break, as the Broncos went on a 5-0 run to start the second half and jumped out to an 11-point lead. 

The Cardinals responded with a 5-0 run of their own, but perhaps the biggest separator between the two fledgling programs was made plain in the second half: paint presence. 

At halftime, Western Michigan was outscoring Ball State 22-8 down low, and Jihad was finding especially little success in the paint, having made just one layup on six attempts with 15 minutes left of play. 

After only a few minutes of play in the second half, Jihad had four fouls and found himself on the bench for a pivotal stretch of play. On top of foul trouble, injury concerns reared their ugly head once again as he made his way out of the arena for the second time as the score sat 51-46. 

Less than one minute later, Jihad emerged from the tunnel. At this juncture, Anderson was filling Jihad’s shoes as the focal point of Ball State’s offense, leading all scorers with 19 points with 10 minutes remaining. 

But it was Western Michigan’s control of the boards and paint that kept Ball State within two possessions or more of the lead. With nine minutes remaining, the Broncos had 14 offensive rebounds, were out rebounding the Cardinals 37-20 and had 22 more points in the paint than Ball State. 

In the end, Western Michigan grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and 48 rebounds in comparison to Ball State’s 33. As far as points in the paint, the Broncos scored 46 while only allowing 20 to the Cardinals.

At the 7:33 mark, Western Michigan earned its largest lead of the game, riding a 7-0 run during the last 3:08 to a 12-point advantage. The Cardinals lacked energy and were nearly expressionless as pressure began to set in. 

Ball State’s fight under pressure comes up short


Junior guard Davion Bailey takes a 3-point shot against Miami Feb. 17 at Millet Hall. Bailey made six 3-point shots in the game. Andrew Berger, DN

After a timeout, Ball State went on an 11-2 run during a 4:42 stretch, and the crowd at Worthen Arena was as loud as it had been all season. With 3:40 remaining, the pressure was arguably on Western Michigan. 

The Broncos didn’t have one of their key contributors for the final stretch either, as White, who had 13 points, fouled out. 

With 1:19 remaining, junior guard Davion Bailey hit a fastbreak layup to tie the game at 62. Bailey immediately ran to freshman forward Mason Jones, and the two jumped up for a chest bump. After a timeout, De La Cruz Monegro hit a 3-pointer to momentarily silence the home crowd before Bailey hit one of his own to send the crowd into a frenzy and tie the game at 65. 

Western Michigan stepped out of bounds on the following possession, leaving 10 seconds for Ball State to win the game. Anderson got the ball off an inbound, dribbled around the defense and missed a midrange jumper with about three seconds left, sending the contest to overtime. 

Jihad opened up the extra five minutes with a layup to extend his total to 16 points. On the following possession, Jihad fouled senior Titus Wright to earn his fifth and final foul.

The Broncos used this as fuel to go on a short 5-0 run to grab a three-point lead with nearly three minutes remaining. 

With the Cardinals at a 72-71 disadvantage with 90 seconds remaining, Pearson drew a foul on a successful layup, screaming in joy after grabbing Ball State the lead. Sophomore Seth Hubbard drew a foul on the next possession and hit both free throws to tie the game at 74. 

Less than a minute later, Wright hit a layup to grab the lead right back for Western Michigan. It was up to Pearson once again, as he was fouled on a 3-point attempt and had a chance to win the game for Ball State with 1.6 seconds remaining. 

After missing the first free throw, Pearson sank the next two. Then, the play of Western Michigan’s season ensued to hand Ball State their third overtime loss of the season. 

Sophomore guard JaVaughn Hannah threw a full court pass to graduate student Anthony Crump for a layup made at the buzzer. The Broncos mobbed Crump as Ball State fans went silent, and Western Michigan won 78-76. 

Anderson finished with a game-high 25 points, joined by three other Cardinals in double figures, but hung his head in defeat after 45 minutes of play. Five Broncos finished with double-digit scoring marks, with Hannah dropping a team-high 17. 

Ball State returns to action Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in the final home game of the season against Kent State. 

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at or on X @KyleSmedley_.


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