CLEVELAND, Ohio - The fourth-seeded Ball State men's basketball team rallied from nine points down in the final 2:42 of regulation to force overtime before the Cardinals knocked off reigning Mid-American Conference Tournament champion and fifth-seeded Ohio 76-73 at the 2011 FirstEnergy MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night.
The Cardinals will advance to their 20th MAC Tournament Semifinal in program history Friday night as they face top-seeded and MAC regular season champion Kent State at 9:30 p.m. Ball State will be playing in its second MAC Tournament semifinal in three years (2009).
"Tonight was great effort by our guys," head coach Billy Taylor said. "We had to fight back after getting in a hole late in the game. I give our kids a lot of credit for finding a way to battle back and make plays. We got stops towards the end of regulation on defense and we converted offensively. We made a lot of huge shots and made huge plays all-around tonight. I am really proud of our guys for surviving and advancing in the tournament."
Six different Cardinals scored at least seven points while eight different players posted at least two field goals in the victory. Freshman guard Jesse Berry (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson) scored a career-high 20 points to lead all scorers as he was 5-of-9 from the field, including four three-pointers, while also hitting 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
Freshman forward Chris Bond (Gary, Ind./Bowman) was huge in the victory as he scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench. Bond connected on 3-of-6 from the field and hit 6-of-8 from the free throw line, including converting two old-fashioned three-point plays down the stretch to force extra time.
Ball State (19-12) trailed 65-56 at the 2:42 mark of the second half after D.J. Cooper hit a runner in the lane. The Cardinals started the comeback as junior guard Randy Davis (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) drove in the lane and found Bond down low for the bucket and the foul as he converted the three-point play.
After the Cardinals forced a miss on defense, Davis stepped up and nailed a deep three-pointer off a screen to trim the deficit to 65-62 with 1:57 remaining. The Cardinals traded empty possessions with the Bobcats until they fouled Ivo Baltic with a one-and-one opportunity. Baltic missed the front end to give the Cardinals life down three with 1:09 remaining.
Ball State came out of a timeout and freshman guard Tyrae Robinson (Gary, Ind./Bowman Academy) drove into the paint and dished a pass off to Bond who was able to convert the basket and was fouled. He calmly went to the line and sunk the free throw to knot the game at 65-65 completing the comeback with 36.4 seconds remaining. The Cardinals' defense came through with a stop at the end of regulation as Cooper's jumper was short of the mark.
The Cardinals opened the extra time with the ball off the tip and senior forward Malik Perry (Philadelphia, Pa./Philadelphia Lutheran) converted a three-point play to put the Cardinals in front 68-65. Ohio was able to claw back to tie the game as it hit three free throws but Freeman missed one to keep it a 68-68 contest.
The Cardinals got some breathing room on the ensuing possession as Davis stepped up and again nailed a three-pointer to run the lead back to three at 71-68. Nick Kellogg responded with a three-point play of his own to tie the game for the sixth and final time.
Robinson sunk a floater in the lane as the shot clock was expiring to put the Cardinals ahead for good at 73-71. Washington hit just one of two free throws to trim the lead to one and set up a pivotal possession for the Cardinals. Ball State worked the clock down and Robinson took a long jump shot that was off the mark. Junior forward Jarrod Jones (Michigan City, Ind./Michigan City) soared for the offensive rebound and quickly deposited it into the basket for the three-point advantage.
The Cardinals forced Ohio into a turnover on the next possession and held strong down the stretch to keep the three-point lead. Robinson hit a free throw with 7.8 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession contest. Ohio tried to score four points in the final seconds but was unable to finish the job as the Cardinals claimed the victory.
Ball State finished the night shooting 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the field and 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from long range. The Cardinals were strong in the overtime period as they hit 4-of-7 (56.1%) from the field, outscoring Ohio 11-8.
Davis ended the night with 11 points, five assists and a career-high nine rebounds. He was 4-of-6 from the field, including 3-of-4 from long range while playing a career-high 41 minutes. Jones added nine points and eight rebounds while Robinson chipped in five points and six assists off the bench.
Ohio (18-15) was held to 39.1 percent shooting (25-of-64) from the field and 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from long range. The Bobcats only hit 1-of-7 (14.3%) in the overtime period. Cooper posted a double-double as he scored a team-high 19 points and dished out 10 assists while Baltic scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
Ball State opened the game hitting on all cylinders as the Cardinals opened to an early 15-8 lead. Berry was the offensive catalyst as he scored 11 of the Cardinals' first 15 points as he nailed three straight three-pointers.
The Cardinals extended their lead to 20-10 as they scored five straight points. Davis nailed the Cardinals' fourth three-pointer of the half while Jones finished through contact to give BSU a double-figure advantage.
Ohio responded with a 12-2 run, including nine straight points to tie the game at 22-22. Cooper and Tommy Freeman each hit three-pointers in the spurt for the Bobcats. Ball State answered right back with seven straight points as Berry scored five more as he nailed his fourth three-pointer of the half and scored on the fast break.
Ball State held a 34-28 lead after Robinson hit a jumper. Freeman answered with a long three-pointer with 1:09 left in the half to cut the BSU lead in half but Bond scored in the paint to send the Cardinals into the locker room with a 36-31 lead.
Ball State connected on 45.2 percent (14-of-31) from the field and 50 percent (5-of-10) from long range. Berry led all first half scorers with 17 points as he was 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from long range. The Cardinals also only committed three first half turnovers.
Ohio connected on 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from the field and 37.5 percent (3-of-8) from long range. DeVaughn Washington and Baltic led the Bobcats with eight points each in the first half while Freeman chipped in six and Cooper added five points.
Ball State returns to action Friday night in the second of two semifinals contest. The Cardinals face top-seeded Kent State at 9:30 p.m. Second-seeded Western Michigan and sixth-seeded Akron will meet in the first semifinal at 7 p.m.