Ball State made clutch plays down the stretch to hold off host Northern Illinois 56-52 in Mid-American Conference men's basketball action on Wednesday.
Jauwan Scaife scored 23 points to lead the Cardinals, while Marcus Posley added 10. Ball State sank a number of clutch free throws down the stretch to secure their second straight MAC West Division victory.
Ball State fought through a second half that included six ties and four lead changes to improve to 10-13 (4-7 MAC) with the win. Northern Illinois dropped to 5-18 (3-8 MAC).
The Cardinals found themselves trailing 44-41 with just under five minutes left when Scaife drew a foul behind the 3-point line. He knocked down all three free throws to tie the game.
Two free throws from Chris Bond with 3:16 to play gave Ball State the lead for good, but it was far from over.
The Cardinals pushed their lead to as many as four points down the stretch when Matt Kamieniecki saved a possession by fighting for an offensive rebound, which Scaife turned it into a lay-in to make it 49-45. It was then a one-possession game for most of the closing minutes, but Ball State made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 35 seconds to answer every Northern Illinois score.
Ball State was 20 for 26 from the foul line for the game, including 15 for 19 in the second half. Scaife was 9 for 10 at the stripe.
The free throw shooting helped the Cardinals overcome a cold second half from the floor.
After knocking down 47.6 percent of its shots in the first half, Ball State shot 26.1 percent over the final 20 minutes. But the Cardinals turned the ball over only twice in the second half.
In fact, after turning the ball over four times before the game’s first media timeout, the Cardinals gave it away only six times the rest of the way.
Ball State held Northern Illinois’ top scorers, Abdel Nader and Aksel Bolin to a combined eight points. Nader, who averages better than 14 points per game, finished his night with five points on 1-for-13 shooting.
Northern Illinois led by as many as eight points early in the game, but a 14-2 run midway through the first half swung the momentum in Ball State’s favor. The Cardinals stretched their own lead to as many as nine points at 28-19 before back-to-back 3-pointers from Northern Illinois guard Antone Christian cut the BSU lead to 28-25 heading into the break.
The Huskies made only seven first-half field goals, but five of them were 3-pointers. Christian, who had made just eight treys all season, accounted for four of those. He finished the game with 14 points to lead Northern Illinois, and Darrell Bowie added 11.
Ball State will host Eastern Michigan on Saturday at 2 p.m.