Ball State buries Huskies thanks to three-point parade


Mingda Wu

NIU sophomore guard David Coit (11) steps back while being defended by two Ball State University players during Saturday’s game at the Convocation Center. (Mingda Wu | Northern Star)

By Zachary Bertram, Sports Reporter

DeKALB Ball State University took down NIU Saturday afternoon 87-69 in dominant fashion, snapping the Huskies’ three-game win streak. 

The Cardinals used the deep ball to their advantage, knocking down 13 of their 28 three-point attempts. Ball State senior guard Demarius Jacobs and redshirt junior guard Jarron Coleman led the charge, with three and four three-point makes respectively.

“A lot of it (the loss) was self-inflicted,” NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno said. “That’s what makes this loss more frustrating, because we’re a way better ballclub than what we showed in this 40 minutes of competition.”

The win helped Ball State improve to 14-7 overall and 5-3 in Mid-American Conference play, while dropping NIU to 8-13 overall with a 4-4 MAC record. The Huskies will look for revenge on the Cardinals on Feb. 14 in Muncie.

“We haven’t been the bigger team in a lot of the games we’ve played, so we have to find a way around it. Whether it’s Ball State, Kent State…we just gotta continue to have a cry about us and a toughness about us,” senior guard Kaleb Thornton said. 

Sophomore guard David Coit led the Huskies in scoring with 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting, while adding four assists. Thornton chipped in 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out five assists.

Ball State’s blazing first half 

Ball State’s early aggressiveness and efficiency played a huge role in their strong first-half performance, helping them jump out to a 49-33 advantage after the first 20 minutes. The Huskies struggled to stay out of foul trouble early, which led to 13 Cardinal free throw attempts. Ball State shot a scorching 10-for-14 from three-point range in the first half, doubling NIU’s five three-point makes in the first half.

“Some of the threes came from a schematic mistake…They hit the paint, we had to rotate, we make them miss, we don’t rebound, they kick it out for open threes or we blow an assignment and someone’s wide open,” Burno said. 

Jacobs led the way for the Cardinals with 10 points at the half, including shooting 3-for-3 from downtown. Thornton was a bright spot for the Huskies in the first half, scoring 10 points and dishing out four assists. 

What went wrong for NIU

The Cardinals took their first half lead and ran with it, leading the entirety of the second half. Coit had a strong second half, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes. Senior forward Anthony Crump played well in the second half scoring 12 points and getting to the free-throw line 10 times in the frame. Despite the impressive showings from Coit and Crump, the Huskies weren’t able to mount a comeback. 

“I didn’t think that we had the physical toughness that it would take to win the game early,” Burno said. “Going into the game we talked about needing to exert a lot of energy in regards to keeping them off of the glass because I felt like that would be one of the areas we could try to exploit.”

Ball State controlled the glass in the second half, snatching 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 15 second chance points off of those rebounds. Six of sophomore center Payton Sparks’ 10 total rebounds came on the offensive end. Redshirt sophomore forward Mickey Pearson Jr. also chipped in, snagging four offensive rebounds, giving him eight in total.

“Me and Kaleb, we gotta take care of the ball better, we gotta control the game better, so that’s on us and we’ll be ready to fix that,” Coit said. 

The Huskies also struggled to hold onto the ball, turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 17 Ball State points off of those turnovers. The Cardinals were able to come up with eight steals and block two shots. 

“A lot of it (the reason why NIU lost) was offensive rebounding and on top of that we turned the ball over 16 times,” Thornton said. “We were practically giving them points.”

Looking forward

The Huskies next game will be against Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Kalamazoo. 

“The two negatives of today (lack of ball control and lack of rebounding) are two positives for us looking forward because those are things we can fix…Like we did in previous games, we’ve seen it, so we know what it takes to get it done,” Coit said.

NIU will look to get back in the win column against the Broncos, who hold a 6-14 record and are 2-5 in conference play. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and will be available to listen to on The Varsity Network