Full house helps Ball State end their Butler frustration

Walking through one of the four large openings at the corner of Worthen Arena may never have been so exciting.

They were up, down, around, and ahead of Jarrod Jones as he trotted onto the court Saturday afternoon. Shades of blue were mixed in here and there, but the prefered hue matched that of the trim on his number 45 jersey.

"We knew there was going to be a big turnout for this game," said the senior forward of the Cardinals' matchup with Butler.

His preminitions were correct as 8,412 packed nearly all the seats of Ball State's home basketball court to see if their home team could finally shake their recent struggles against their regional rival.

Beyond leading the overall series 65-37 coming in, Butler had won seven consecutive times when facing college basketball's most successful Cinderella. But with their biggest crowd on hand since their matchup with Indiana in 2005, the atmosphere was ripe for change.

"We just wanted to put on a show," said Jones-and he lived up to the promise.

Ball State gave their fans what the wanted, spiced in a little suspense, then closed like a contender as they're expected to be in the MAC. Jones' jumper with under a minute left and a pair of late defensive stops to give the Cardinals a 58-55 win in front of a jammed house.

"I was really proud of our guys being able to find a way to grind it out against a team that really thrives in half-court basketball," said Ball State head coach Billy Taylor, who got his first win over Butler Saturday.

Meanwhile players gave credit to the crowd for helping them to do so-an advantage they've not had so far this season. In their previous three regular season home games the largest crowd the Cardinals drew 3,225 people in a win over IUPUI-half of what they had on Saturday afternoon.

It was not a split crowd either as it was during the Hoosiers' visit nearly six years ago. The majority of the fans were sporting the red of the Cardinals with scattered blues in the upper reaches of the arena.

"A big focus for us was just staying diciplined in what we do with all the energy and stuff," said forward Tyler Koch of the power of the atmosphere. "Just maintaining our composure and our poise."

Doing so wasn't a problem for the Cardinals in the first half as they score the game's first eight points. Behind Jones' 11 first half points, the Cardinals got ahead by as many as 13 before having it trimmed eight at the break.

"Our defense really set the tone," said Taylor of the first half, when he team held Butler to 25 percent shoooting from the field and forced ten turnovers. "We did a great job defending the three and that allowed us to get out in transition."

That changed a bit after a pair of Koch's three-pointers put Ball State up by 12 early in the second half. Using their half-court approach and the strong play of Khyle Marshall, the Bulldogs forged their first tie of the game on a layup by Crishawn Hopkins with 14:04 left.

Marshall would do so again with a 1:20 to go, hitting a jumper to even the game at 54 and add to his team-high 21 points.

"We want to see more consistency," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens of the game until that point. "I'm excited about the way Khyle played but we need to see a lot more.

"Just come out compete and fight-and we did that in a lot of ways."

Jones, however, had the final answer when he buried a baseline jumper with 48 seconds left to give the Cardinals the lead. In the end it would be all they would need as the Ball State defense held the Bulldogs without a bucket the rest of the way-yielding a single Ronald Nored free throw with .5 remaining.

As players raced past the student section when the final horn sounded, they exchanged high-fives in hopes that it won't be goodbye.

"Give them something to comeback, so they would comeback for future games this season," said Jones.

He might be a big reason they do.