Ball State Men Down Buffalo

Cardinals Catch Fire Early, Roll Past Defending MAC Champ Buffalo

BSU improves to 2-0 in conference play behind 25 points from Tahjai Teague

Photo by: Rex Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications


MUNCIE, Ind. — Buffalo has been the unquestioned standard bearer in the Mid-American Conference for some time now. Back-to-back conference champions. NCAA tournaments in four of the past five years.


Tuesday night inside Worthen Arena it was all Ball State.


The Cardinals started fast, opened up a double-digit lead and never looked back on the way to an 88-68 victory in front of more than 4,800 fans.


Tahjai Teague led the way with a season-high 25 points and nine rebounds as BSU (9-6) improved to 2-0 in conference play with wins over both reigning division champions.

Photo by: Rex Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications


“It was one of those games where we were clicking on a lot of levels,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “We made a lot of shots. There were stretches in there where Buffalo defended well and we made some hard shots.”


The first half, especially, is when the Cardinals made a lot of those shots. A 56 percent performance from the floor and 6-of-14 from 3-point range over the opening 20 minutes put them in control. It was the opposite of Friday night’s MAC-opening victory over Toledo when BSU dug out of an early double-digit hole.


Teague was the offensive catalyst from the beginning, hitting his first four shots from the floor on his way to an 11-for-16 night. He scored in the post, he made two 3’s, and he got a couple contested looks to go, too. His corner 3 at the halftime buzzer sent the Cardinals to the locker room leading the Bulls (9-6, 0-2 MAC), 48-34.


“His post move was ridiculous,” Whitford said. “It’s something he’s been working on. Coach (Matt) Crenshaw has been working with him on a couple new moves in the post to add a little versatility to his game down there. It was good to see him do it. He can score in all those different parts of the court, but him scoring in the low post is a big part of it for us.”


Ball State came out of the break on a 9-2 run to stretch its lead to more than 20. The Cardinals answered every time Buffalo tried to rally in the second half. The Bulls pulled as close as 13 points at 76-63 with 5:22 to play, but Kyle Mallers immediately drilled a 3 on the other end, and the lead was soon 20 again.

Photo by: Rex Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications


Mallers scored 11 points, as did Ishmael El-Amin. Four other BSU players were close to double figures, including the freshman backcourt of Luke Bumbalough and Jarron Coleman with nine each. KJ Walton returned after missing the Toledo game with a sore ankle to score nine, and Brachen Hazen added eight.

Photo by: Rex Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications


The Cardinals were able to get out and run in transition while taking care of the basketball. BSU turned it over 18 times in last year’s loss at Buffalo. In Tuesday’s win, the Cardinals gave it away just seven times, matching their second-lowest total of the season.


“If you turn the ball over against Buffalo, it’s a layup at the other end so fast,” Whitford said. “For us to keep the turnovers to seven was a big part of the story tonight.”


Buffalo finished the game shooting 46 percent from the floor but made only 3-of-18 from 3-point range. Ball State finished 10-of-27 from beyond the arc. Antwain Johnson scored 16 points for the Bulls, while Jeenathan Williams and Jayvon Graves also reached double figures.

Photo by: Rex Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications


The teams will meet again Feb. 18 in Buffalo. But now Ball State turns its attention to another tough test with its first league road trip of the year to MAC East Division co-leader Akron. The game will tip Friday at 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.


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