Ball State Earns Gritty Win over Western Michigan, Moves On To MAC Semis

By Published: 3/10/2017 12:55:57 AM Custom Tag

Cardinals to meet No. 1 seed Akron in Friday’s semifinals

Courtesy: Ball State Athletics

CLEVELAND -- The Ball State men's basketball team snapped Western Michigan's nine-game winning streak with a 66-63 win over the Broncos in the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals Thursday afternoon in Quicken Loans Arena. Ball State moves on to the semifinals for the first time since 2011.

The Cardinals (21-11) played the final 30 minutes without their leading scorer and second team All-MAC honoree Tayler Persons. Ball State's point guard was injured diving on the floor for a loose ball when he collided with teammate Jeremie Tyler.

"I couldn't be more proud of my team," Ball state coach James Whitford said. "We were a man down obviously without Tayler. I thought we won the game with incredible heart and our ability to defend and show toughness down the stretch. This is a players' game when you get to this time of season, and this was a players' win. Great effort."

Shortly after Persons left the game, Ball State went on a 19-4 run to take its first lead. Senior Ryan Weber hit a couple of key 3-pointers in that stretch, while sophomore Trey Moses capped the run with an old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Cardinals ahead, 34-28. Ball State took a 38-33 lead into halftime. The five-point lead would be the largest by either team the rest of the way.

The second half featured three ties and six lead changes. A Moses lay-in with 6:50 remaining put Ball State ahead, 56-55. The Cardinals never trailed from that point on, but Western Michigan (16-16) would not go away.

Two late 3-pointers from WMU's Thomas Wilder evened the score at 63 with 1:14 left on the clock. On Ball State's ensuing possession, senior Franko House was fouled and made one free throw to put the Cardinals in front, 64-63. The Broncos got two looks at the basket on their next possession only to come away empty. Junior Francis Kiapway netted 1-of-2 free throws with 22 seconds remaining to stretch Ball State's edge to two points, 65-63.

Without a timeout remaining, Western Michigan brought the ball up the court. Wilder's mid-range jumper was off the mark and once again Ball State came away with the defensive rebound. Tyler hit 1-of-2 free throws this time to make the score 66-63 with three seconds remaining. Western Michigan's desperation half-court heave was off the mark at the buzzer.

Four players finished in double figures for Ball State, led by Kiapway with 16. House added 14 points, while Moses recorded his eighth double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds). Weber chipped in 10.

Wilder paced Western Michigan with a game-high 24 points. Tucker Haymond, who scored 21 points in each of the two previous meetings against Ball State, was held in check with only eight points.

Ball State and Western Michigan finished in a tie for first in the MAC West Division and split the regular season series. Just two weeks ago, the Broncos defeated Ball State by a score of 80-55 in Kalamazoo.

Ball State continues action in the MAC Tournament semifinals Friday evening against No. 1 seed Akron. The Zips won the only regular season meeting between the two squads on a buzzer beater to pull out a 65-63 victory. Friday's game will be televised on CBS Sports Network beginning at 5:30 p.m.

For the most up-to-date information on the Ball State men's basketball team, please follow @BallStateSports and @BallStateMBB.
Published: 3/10/2017 12:55:57 AM Custom Tag