WMU men’s basketball took down Ball State on Saturday by a final score of 68-64.
The Broncos (11-12, 4-6) earned just their third win after trailing at halftime this season. The win marked their first back-to-back Mid-American Conference wins since February 2018. The loss dropped the Cardinals to 13-10 on the season (6-4 MAC).
WMU was shooting the ball well from inside the three-point line in the early going, while Ball State’s outside shooting kept them in the game. WMU was 8-for-14 from the floor while the Cardinals were 4-for-9 from three in the first 12 minutes of the game.
The rest of the first half continued to be back-and-forth as the Broncos controlled the interior, owning an 18-4 advantage in points in the paint. A +24 advantage in three-pointers allowed Ball State to keep it competitive, as the Cardinals would take a 33-30 lead into the locker room.
Redshirt junior Brandon Johnson had 10 points and three rebounds before halftime for the Broncos, who had just three assists to eight turnovers in the first half. WMU shot 12-for-19 but was just 1-for-4 from the three-point line.
Freshman Luke Bumbalough led Ball State with nine first-half points on three made threes. The Cardinals were 9-for-18 at the three-point line in the first half and 11-for-28 overall. BSU had 10 assists to four turnovers before halftime.
“We wanted to make sure that we stayed down and we didn’t want them to drive it. We’d prefer for them to shoot it,” head coach Steve Hawkins said about the three-point defense after the game. “They started knocking them down. Then, we started to lose some defensive discipline when they would drive the ball and then we were in a scramble situation.”
Redshirt senior Tahjai Teague got out to a quick start in the second half for Ball State, scoring six points in the first three minutes after only having two first-half points. Johnson continued to lead the way for the Broncos on offense, converting on each of his first six shot attempts in the game.
“Ball State came out, punched us in the mouth at the beginning of the second half,” Hawkins said. “We hung in there, weathered the storm, came back and took the lead.”
A 13-5 run by WMU got them back into the lead with just over 10 minutes left in the second half. WMU continued to rely on their interior play, beating Ball state on the boards and in the paint to try to overcome the Cardinals’ hot outside shooting.
The teams traded the lead down the stretch, changing hands four times in less than three minutes from the 3:33 mark in the second half to the 1:15 mark. Johnson was responsible for 13 consecutive WMU points in the late stages, putting the team on the back and trying to carry the Broncos to a victory.
It was an unusually quiet game from junior Michael Flowers, who had and his 26-game double-digit scoring snapped as he scored just five points to go along with three rebounds and two assists.
“I’m gonna try anything it takes just to get to the basket, or get to my shot, or get it to the open man,” Johnson said about his performance in the game. “It’s a great confidence boost. The win at Miami was our first (MAC) road win since 2018, so, it was an automatic morale boost for the whole team.”
Johnson scored 29 and grabbed seven rebounds for WMU, while freshman Titus Wright chipped in 13 and four boards.
The Broncos outrebounded the Cardinals 32-23 and scored 36 points in the paint to 24 for Ball State. The three-point shot stopped being as large of a weapon in the second half for BSU as they wound up 12-27 from beyond the arc.
Ball State was led by Bumbalough’s 15 points on 5-for-8 at the three-point line. Redshirt freshman Jarron Coleman chipped in 14 points and a team-best five assists. Teague scored 13 and had eight rebounds for the Cardinals.
“We’ve talked from the beginning about just remain on an upward trajectory, just keep improving,” Hawkins said about the back-to-back wins. “Nobody’s getting an automatic bid in this conference. You just have to make every effort to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season.”
The Broncos travel to Ohio for their next game on Tues., Feb. 11 at 7 pm. The Bobcats come into the game at 11-12 (3-7 MAC) this year.