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Ball State tops ISU in season opener

By BSU Athletic Department

MUNCIE — Ball State’s Tahjai Teague had three dunks Tuesday night before the basketball season was even eight minutes old, putting his own stamp on the oldest rivalry in program history.

Teague scored a game-high 21 points and hit a three-pointer as part of an early second-half run, as host Ball State pulled away for an 86-69 victory in the 133rd meeting with Indiana State.

But it wasn’t his scoring prowess Ball State coach James Whitford was praising after the game.

“It was one of the most dominant defensive performances we’ve had here in a long time,” Whitford said. “He switched a lot of stuff, so he’s guarding (ISU guards) Jordan Barnes and Tyreke Key for a lot of the game. What he did defensively on those guys was exceptional.”

Barnes, who averaged nearly 18 points per game a season ago, scored 16 but was just 6-for-19 from the floor. Key was 6-for-18.

Ball State opened the second half on a 12-2 run to break open a tie game and shot 59 percent over the final 20 minutes to defeat the Sycamores for the second year in a row. After Indiana State cut the lead to 58-51 midway through the second half, Brachen Hazen knocked in a 3 to push the advantage back to 10. The Cardinals led by double digits the rest of the way.

Hazen went 6-for-6 from the floor in his first regular season game for the Cardinals. He and K.J. Walton sat out last season as transfers and made their impacts felt Tuesday. Both scored 15 points, and Walton skied to throw down a dunk on a putback during Ball State’s big second half.

“I thought in the first half, we were trying to do it right; we just were rushed, we were nervous,” Whitford said. “In the second half, Tayler (Persons) had five assists, no turnovers. Josh (Thompson) had no turnovers. When your point guards are able to have seven assists and no turnovers in a half, you score 54 points. We were still able to play fast, we just made much better decisions.”

The Cardinals came out hot in their new black uniforms, forcing turnovers and scoring the first six points of the game, including two Teague dunks. The teams traded the lead five times in the first half, and Allante Holston’s half-court shot at the halftime buzzer for Indiana State sent the game to the locker room locked at 32.

But that momentum didn’t carry over to the second half. Teague scored in the paint on the first possession after the break, and the Cardinals never looked back. Hazen had 12 points in the second half, and Persons had 10 of his 16.

Trey Moses played 12 minutes as he works his way back from preseason knee surgery. He tied his career-high with four blocks in that short time and became the sixth player in program history to reach 100 career blocks.

Ball State will return to action Saturday with a trip to face No. 22 Purdue. The game tips at 8 p.m. from Mackey Arena in West Lafayette on the Big Ten Network.