FORT WAYNE, In. — We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. College basketball is a 40-minute game.
Often in college basketball, games are a tale of two halves, One team holds a sizable lead after the opening half, only to see their lead disappear in the second frame. While one can’t help but feel for the team who sees their lead evaporate, it does provide exciting basketball.
On Wednesday night up in Fort Wayne, that’s exactly what happened.
When the Ball State Cardinals took on the Fort Wayne Mastodons in the opening round of the CIT, which was also the inaugural Lou Henson Classic, it was a tale of two halves for both teams.
After the first 20 minutes, the visiting Cardinals held a seven-point lead over the Mastodons, at 41-34. In the second frame, the balanced offensive attack of Fort Wayne took over, and the home side stormed back to continue their winning ways at home.
The Mastodons improved their home record to 14-3 on the year with an 88-80, come-from-behind victory, over Ball State.
After three losses in their final four games to close out the regular season, a post-season win gives the Mastodons a big boost of confidence moving forwards. Their starters performed as they should, carrying the team to victory.
All five members of the starting five scored in double-figures, and Fort Wayne had six players reach double-digits in total on Wednesday. Big man Brent Calhoun put up 27 points, on 12-of-16 shooting, and pulled down six rebounds. Mo Evans recorded a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists.
Fort Wayne’s starters were responsible for 77 of the team’s point on the evening.
In his final game with the Cardinals, Franko House recorded 15 points and three rebounds. Tayler Persons scored a team-high 19 points in the loss.
Over the first four minutes of the game, the teams swapped three pointers. A trifecta from Calhoun gave the Mastodons an early 9-6 lead.
After Calhoun hit a jumper to give Fort Wayne a 17-14 lead with just under 10 minutes to play in the half, the Cardinals went on a run to build momentum before the break. A 17-4 run, capped off by a jumper from Persons, spanned over four minutes and gave Ball State a 31-21 lead when all was said and done.
Fort Wayne managed to cut the deficit down to a more manageable seven points at the break, at 41-34.
In the early goings of the second half, Fort Wayne was trying to cut into the lead of the Cardinals. But, Ball State had an answer to everything the Mastodons threw at them.
With 13:07 to play, Xzavier Turner hit one of two free throws to bring Fort Wayne to within a pair, at 52-50. Within 30 seconds, a jumper from Persons and a three from Kyle Mallers pushed the lead for the Cardinals back up to seven points.
Fort Wayne continued to fight, and they eventually overtook Ball State for good.
After the Cardinals restored a four-point lead, at 63-59, the Mastodons embarked on an 11-0 run to take a seven point lead of their own. Calhoun capped off the run with a layup, and Fort Wayne wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
Ball State got to within a pair down the stretch, but Fort Wayne managed to pull away in the end for the eight-point victory.
Fort Wayne (20-12) now awaits their second round opponent in the 2017 CIT after their victory.
Despite the loss, Ball State (21-13) recorded back-to-back 20 win seasons for the first time in 24 years.
– T. Bennett