Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

No. 9 Irish Fall To Ball State 80-77

December 5, 2017

No. 9 Notre Dame (7-2) and Ball State (5-4) struggled to start Tuesday night's game on the offensive end at Purcell Pavilion. Both teams shot under 40 percent in the first half, but the game turned into a shootout as Tayler Persons nailed a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to give Ball State an 80-77 win. 

"You have to give Ball State all the credit in the world," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said after the loss. "I thought they played fabulously. We were on our heels the whole night. My worry was how they would shoot it from the arc and we did the job there, but their second shots really hurt us. They made big shots and you have to take your hat off to Persons.

“I loved how our group fought. It wasn’t a smooth night for us. We tried to get it to overtime, but we probably didn’t deserve to get it to overtime. They outplayed us.”

Persons hit back-to-back jumpers to extend the Cardinals lead to 67-58 as Ball State went 7-for-7 from the field while the Irish didn’t hit a field goal for 3:23. 

Notre Dame would answer as point guard Matt Farrell nailed a three-pointer and on the next possession found his way inside for a layup to cut the lead to 67-64. 

Persons finished the game with 24 points and five rebounds. 

"We’re prepared for Ball State like they were NC State," stated Brey. "I knew they were really good. Some people said it wasn’t smart scheduling, but I felt for our strength of schedule that we should play them. I knew it would be a dogfight. I had that feeling all day that it would get down to game situations.

“We weren’t relaxed. I think a good team got into their rhythm and knocked us back at times. I give our guys credit. We figured out a way to tie that thing up with 20 seconds to go. This group has a lot of good stuff there.”

Notre Dame was beaten on the boards 40-26, including 13-4 on offensive rebounds. The Cardinals turned the advantage into 22 second-chance points, while the Irish scored just six second chance points. 

Facing 55-50 hole midway through the second half, Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben gave the Irish a much-needed spark. Two free throws from Geben sandwiched between buckets from Colson gave the Irish a 56-50 lead with just over nine minutes to play. 

Colson led the Irish with 26 points and six boards, while Geben added 12 points and five rebounds.

Ball State forward Kyle Mallers nailed a three-pointer, and Tayler Persons hit a runner in the lane to give the Cardinals a 62-57 lead with 7:47 left in the game. 

Rex Pflueger started the second half with a three-point play after getting fouled while completing a wild reverse layup. It was just the start for the junior forward, as Pflueger nailed a three-pointer and another jumper in the first three minutes of the second half. The California native finished with 11 points. 

Colson added a three-point play to give Notre Dame a 44-40 lead with 16:34 left in the game. 

Mallers answered for Ball State with big three and Persons hit a runner in the lane following a TJ Gibbs turnover to give Ball State a 47-44 lead with 14:34 to play.

Mallers added eight points and four boards for the Cardinals.  

Back-to-back buckets by Colson and a John Mooney layup would tie the score 50 with under 12 minutes to play. 

Ball State responded with a quick 5-0 run that included a three-pointer from Jeremie Tyler as soon as Notre Dame went to a 2-3 zone to take a 55-50 lead. 

It was another slow start for the Irish as Notre Dame started the game 3-for-7 during the first five minutes of action with two turnovers. Pflueger hit a three-pointer from the corner amongst the stagnate offense, but the good news was the Irish held Ball State to just 2-of-8 to start the game to take an 8-5 advantage at the first media timeout. 

"We’re having trouble finding a rhythm offensively," stated Farrell. "We have to get back to playing Notre Dame basketball and get into a good flow. I like our fight. Kid hit a big shot. They played well and we missed a lot of free throws. We didn’t execute at key times.

“It’s tough to see the ball almost go in and come out. It’s frustrating. It is what it is. That’s basketball. This is a tough loss. It’s going to hurt, but we have another opportunity on Saturday to go play another good team and get a win."

Ball State held Notre Dame without a field for over four minutes until Geben completed a three-point play to pull the Irish with 14-13 with 11:11 to go in the first half. 

The putback by Geben would be the last field goal until 6:17 left in the first half as Colson hit back-to-back buckets to cut the Cardinals lead to 25-19. Ball State held the Irish to just 2-of-8 from the field during the scoreless stretch.  

Geben cut the Cardinals lead to 25-24 at the 3:26 mark on his second three-point of the first half as the Irish went on a 7-0 run. 

Moses answered a Colson dunk with a three-point play, but Mooney answered right back with a trey from the corner to cut the Cardinals lead back down to one. 

Colson led the Irish with nine points and four rebounds in the first half, but he shot just 3-of-8 from the field. Geben added eight points and five boards. 

Mallers topped the Cardinals first half drilling a jumper at the top of the key at the buzzer for a 34-29 lead at the half. 

"We dug ourselves a hole," said Farrell. We have to stop doing that.”

Notre Dame shot just 37 percent (10-of-27) from the field in the first half and just 2-of-10 from three-point range. Ball State wasn’t much better shooting 39 percent (12-of-31) and 3-of-11 from downtown. 

Persons led Ball State with 10 points and Sellers added seven points for the Cardinals in the opening 20 minutes.  

The Irish lost just about every category in the first half, but the surprising stat was Ball State won the battle of the boards 22-15 and also dominated in bench points by outscoring Notre Dame 13-3. 

WHAT’S NEXT: Notre Dame travels to Delaware on Saturday for a 7:00 p.m. ET. tip.

Irish Sports Daily
Final Box Score 


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