Cards Win, Remain One Game Back

Ball State Blitzes Western Michigan Early, Cruises to 71-61 Victory

story by: Ball State Sports Staff

photos by: Brett Crabtree, Excel Sports Publications

Cardinals improve to 7-1 at home in MAC play behind 21 points from Ishmael El-Amin

MUNCIE, Ind. — The Ball State men’s basketball team put on the burners in the first half and early in the second, racing to a 25-point lead over Western Michigan before settling in for a 71-61 win Tuesday night in Worthen Arena.

The victory for the Cardinals (16-12, 9-6 MAC) coupled with a loss by Buffalo catapulted BSU into a fourth-place tie with the Bulls in the overall Mid-American Conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season. The top four seeds earn a first-round bye in the upcoming MAC Tournament.

Ball State scored 12 of the first 14 points against Western Michigan (11-17, 4-11 MAC) and never looked back. Junior guard Ishmael El-Amin carried the home team with 16 first-half points, highlighted by a 4-for-6 performance from behind the arc, as the Cardinals took a 40-23 lead into intermission.

Photo by: Brett Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications

The Cardinals continued to pull away from the Broncos at the start of the second half. A four-point play from senior Kyle Mallers at the 16:32 mark stretched the cushion to 25 points, 53-28.

Western Michigan managed to chip away at the deficit thanks to going 8-for-12 (66.7 percent) from 3-point range after halftime but never seriously challenged Ball State, which evened the season series between the teams.

“I thought our defense was outstanding,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “These guys really wore us out in the first game in the post. We really answered the bell there. I thought we really played through our defense and got a great lead. I didn’t feel like we handled the lead nearly as well as we should have, but I thought our effort on defense carried us to the win.”

Ball State was able to get out and run, scoring a season-high 26 points in transition. The Cardinals also got 21 points from their bench, led by Josh Thompson with eight.

Photo by: Brett Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications

El-Amin reached the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season and finished with a game-best 21. He equaled his career high by knocking down five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, senior Tahjai Teague recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds. All nine Cardinals who saw action notched at least one basket to help Ball State improve to 7-1 in home league contests.

Photo by: Brett Crabtree/Excel Sports Publications

Brandon Johnson and Luke Toliver each picked up 12 points for Western Michigan, which dropped its fifth consecutive game. Earlier this month, WMU shot 61.9 percent against the Cardinals and Johnson had 29 points in a 68-64 win over BSU in Kalamazoo. Tonight, the Ball State defense held the Broncos to 38.9 percent shooting from the floor.

The all-time series between the two teams is now even at 67 apiece.

Ball State hits the road Saturday for another MAC West Division game at Toledo. Tip time is set for 2 p.m. on ESPN3. The Cardinals defeated the Rockets 61-57 in Muncie back on Jan. 3 in the league opener.

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