Ball St. fades at end, loses to No. 16 'Cats 73-63
Ball State seemed headed for a big upset in its season opener before the Cardinals wilted in the deafening roar of McKale Center and lost to No. 16 Arizona 73-63.
The Wildcats trailed most of the game before finishing with a 22-8 run.
''There definitely are some positives for our guys,'' Cardinals coach Billy Taylor said. ''What's disappointing is they know the game plan certainly worked. If we could have stuck to it for 40 minutes we give ourselves a better chance of winning.''
Jarrod Jones matched his career high with 25 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Billy Davis had 11 assists for Ball State.
Whether the Cardinals were victims of a stifling Arizona defense or their own mistakes was open to discussion.
''Their crowd definitely got into it. The reason they got into it was because of our mistakes,'' Davis said. ''We just made too many mental mistakes. They weren't putting too much pressure on the ball, we just gave it away.''
Arizona's Kevin Parrom, playing just seven weeks after he was shot in the leg and hand while visiting his hometown of New York City and less than a month after the death of his mother, received a standing ovation from the loud, capacity crowd when he entered the game and when he left in the fourth quarter.
''It felt good. It's an amazing feeling,'' he said. ''I didn't know how good I was going to play. I just wanted to contribute and grab a rebound or two and just play hard.''
Parrom played 18 minutes, sinking a crucial 3-pointer, taking a charge, and grabbing four rebounds and a steal. Kyle Fogg led the Wildcats (3-0) with 21 points and Solomon Hill added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
''Whether we won or lost the game, I was at complete peace as a coach with our effort level in the second half,'' coach Sean Miller said. ''That's how we play at Arizona. What we have to learn as a team is to play with that energy level and effort level from start to finish.''
Parrom's 3-pointer capped a 15-5 run that cut Ball State's lead to 47-46 with 12 minutes left.
''It almost felt that basket counted for eight points,'' Miller said.
Jauwon Scaife added 14 and Jesse Berry 11 for Ball State.
Freshman Nick Johnson, playing some at point guard as Miller left touted freshman Josiah Turner on the bench, scored 10 for Arizona.
Arizona dominated the game at the foul line, taking 30 more free throws than the visitors. The Wildcats were 31 of 43 to Ball State's 6 of 13.
The Wildcats used defense to get back in the game, drawing an offensive foul and forcing a five-second call on consecutive Ball State possessions after the Cardinals took a 42-31 lead on Jarrod Jones' rebound basket not quite two minutes into the second half.
The experienced Cardinals, with four starters back from a 19-13 season, boosted the lead to four on Jones' inside hook shot, but Perry sank a 3-pointer, then Johnson made both on a one-and-one to put Arizona up 56-55 with 6:07 to play, the Wildcats' first lead since the game's opening two minutes.
Hill's two free throws, followed by his first 3-pointer of the season stretched the lead to 61-55 with 2:37 remaining.
''With the crowd like theirs, the game was never over,'' Jones said. ''They definitely got into it. Once the team got going, it gave them a lot of momentum. Going against a team like that, we have to be able to play with adversity, and keep our composure, not let the fans or calls or anything affect us.''
Ball State opened a 17-10 lead on Scaife's steal and breakaway layup. After Arizona cut it to 19-15, the Cardinals scored the next seven to go up 26-15 when Berry made one of two free throws with 4:49 to play. The turnover-plagued Wildcats went scoreless for just over five minutes during the Ball State run.
Johnson made one of two free throws to cut it to 26-21, but the Cardinals, expected to contend in the Mid-American Conference, got consecutive 3s from Jones and Scaife in an 8-3 spurt that boosted the lead to 36-26 with 1 1/2 minutes left in the half. Jones' driving dunk just before the halftime buzzer gave Ball State a 38-29 lead at the break.
The teams met for the first time.
Ball State plays at Indiana State Friday night.