Junior forward Sefton Barrett scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Central Michigan attack, but it wasn't quite enough in the end to overcome Ball State.
"When your margin of error is small, every play is a big play," CMU head coach Jay Smith said. "It was another case of us battling a team down the stretch."
The Chippewas (3-19, 1-13 MAC) led 33-32 at halftime following a Giordan Watson 3-pointer at the buzzer. The game seesawed back and forth in the second half. Ball State opened a 53-47 lead before CMU capped a 10-3 run with a pair of Barrett free throws that gave the Chippewas a 57-56 lead at the 4:12 mark.
But the Cardinals (9-13, 5-9) followed with a 6-0 run, taking a 62-57 lead with 2:36 to go. The Chippewas closed the gap to 62-59 on another pair of Barrett free throws at the 2:31 mark, but could get no closer.
The Chippewas appeared to stop Ball State with less than a minute to go, but an inadvertant whistle by the referees with 56 seconds remaining kept possession with the Cardinals on "alternating possessions/jump ball" following a potential BSU shot clock violation."
"Things happen for a reason and the breaks are not going our way right now," Smith said. "I thought both teams battled down to the wire."
"Central Michigan is such an intense defensive team," BSU head coach Tim Buckley said. "I thought we were able to play through our mistakes tonight and that we made some big plays in transition toward the end of the game."
The win was the Cardinals first conference road victory of the season.
For Barrett, it was his fourth double-double of the season. He was joined in double-figures scoring by Watson (13 points and seven assists) and Eddie Spencer (11 points).
CMU sophomore center Justin Blevins turned in solid performance too, totaling eight points, four rebounds and career highs of five steals and three blocks.
"Justin is getting better and better every game," Smith said.
Ball State also had three players score in double-figures. Leading the way was Jalon Perryman who tallied a game-high 18 points, followed by D'Andre Peyton with 16 and Julien Mills, who totaled 13 points.
Next up for CMU is a Bracket Buster game Saturday afternoon at Rose Arena against Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference. Tipoff for the game is set at 2 p.m.
Chippewas Fall to Ball State, 63-60
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