By: Nathan Ganger
Ball State Sports Link
The Ball State Cardinals returned home to Worthen Arena for its home opener against the Omaha Mavericks. Ball State jumped out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to lockdown defense and hot shooting, giving the Cardinals an advantage early.
The Cardinals made eight first half 3-pointers and held Omaha to 0-9 from downtown. Ball State also took excellent care of the basketball in the opening half, as they had just two turnovers. In the loss to Georgia Southern, the Cardinals committed 17 turnovers. Ball State dominated the first half and entered the locker room up 44-21.
The second half was all about the Omaha Mavericks. With 14:36 left in the game, Omaha went on a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 15. Jalen Windham answered with a 3-pointer, but then Omaha went on a long 21-3 run to cut the Ball State lead to just one.
While Ball State struggled from the free throw line (16-27), the Cardinals made them when it mattered most. In the final two minutes, Payton Sparks and Tyler Cochran hit two free throws each to give Ball State a 69-64 lead with 1:40 left. Sparks also hit a layup to increase the lead to 71-67.
Ultimately, Ball State hung on and got the 73-69 victory and got its first win of the season. Despite being outscored 48-29 in the second half, the Cardinals got stops on defense late in the game and made clutch free throws.
Windham had an excellent performance, as he had a career-high 14 points on four 3-pointers. The pace was frantic in this one. Both teams sprinting up and down the floor in transition, as Ball State racked up 14 transition points.
“Like I said to the team, the first 15 minutes is who we can be, the last 15 minutes is who we are. Just a young team that hasn’t been together long,” head coach James Whitford said following the win. “We have to turn the 18-20 into 40, and I think that is the challenge.”
Ball State returns to the floor on Thursday, November 18th at 8:00 p.m. for the Jersey Mike’s Classic in St. Petersburg, Florida against Florida International University.