Ball State (6-3, 0-0 MAC) is now 2-0 to start its four-game road trip after taking down Loyola Chicago (5-4, 0-0 Missouri Valley) Wednesday. The Cardinals are eyeing their sixth straight win and their second on the season against Evansville (4-4, 0-0 MVC).
As the Cardinals prepare for their second contest in five games with the Purple Aces, here’s both a look back at their battle with the Ramblers and a look ahead to Sunday’s matchup.
Looking back: Key road win
The Cardinals’ 75-69 win over Loyola Chicago was a big one for a couple reasons. First of all, it extended their win streak to five games. After dropping three consecutive games to 2018 NCAA Tournament teams, the Cardinals haven’t lost since.
Secondly, not only did Ball State take down a tournament team from last season Wednesday, it took down a Final Four contender. With this coming less than a month after going down to the wire with Purdue and Virginia Tech – both ranked teams at the time – the Cardinals are proving they can compete with some of the top teams in the nation.
Looking back: Walton took over
Redshirt junior K.J. Walton was on the floor for 36 minutes against the Ramblers, and he made every one of them count. Wednesday was the eighth game this season in which Walton scored in double-figures and the third he dropped at least 20. Walton made 11 of 14 shots and finished with 22 points.
He scored 14 in the first half, but his efficiency in the second half is what helped the Cardinals seal the deal. Walton made all four of his attempts from the field and grabbed four of his five rebounds down the stretch.
Looking back: This Gunn can shoot
The Cardinals have received a spark from sophomore Zach Gunn off the bench the last three games. Gunn scored a career-high 17 points against Tiffin. He followed that performance with 11 at IUPUI and another 12 Wednesday at Loyola Chicago.
Gunn has been especially effective from behind the 3-point line. He went 4 of 6 from 3-point range Wednesday, and in the last three games, he has connected on 11 of his 16 attempts from downtown. Gunn currently boasts the top 3-point percentage on the team at .538.
What’s ahead: Can they make it six?
The Cardinals’ victory Wednesday marked their fifth straight after starting the year 1-3. One of those five wins was at home over Evansville, 82-72. The Cardinals will clash with the Purple Aces again Sunday, this time on the road.
Ball State has all the momentum in the world after defeating last season’s Final Four Cinderella. With these teams having already played in late November, fans could be in for another close game between the two.
What’s ahead: Walton again?
As mentioned earlier, Walton has scored at least 20 points in three of the Cardinals’ nine games this season. One of those was in their first contest with Evansville. Walton scored 20 while shooting a productive 8 of 9 from the field during the win on Nov. 24. Coming off a 22-point performance against the Ramblers, Walton looks like he could be hitting his stride, and another high-scoring game could be in store Sunday.
What’s ahead: Persons bounce back
Redshirt senior Tayler Persons had an uncharacteristic 4 for 11 night from the field Wednesday. He had a similar game last time Ball State played Evansville, making 3 of 11 shots. Following that game, Persons bounced back with a 20-point performance, shooting 70 percent from the field.
If history is any indication, Ball State’s leading scorer could also be preparing for another strong game.
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