MUNCIE, Ind. -- The first 20 minutes of Sunday's regular-season finale between Ball State and Western Michigan looked like anything but a basketball game. A physical first-half saw a total of 24 fouls whistled between the two teams and a combined 26 free throws. Western Michigan's Shawntes Gary even had to leave the game with a bloodied left eye.
An emotional and inspired Ball State team -- which included starts for its three seniors of Chris Ames, D'Andre Peyton and Skip Mills -- seemed to keep delivering the punches and built an 11-point lead with just under six mintues to play. Western chipped away at the lead from the free throw line and tied the game at 32 all on a three-pointer from Derek Drews en route to an exhausting 35-32 BSU lead at halftime. Then the Broncos delivered the blows in the second half as MAC Freshman of the Year Candidate David Kool tied the contest at 35 with his first of three long-range field goals in the second half.
Western's first four field goals in the second half were all from behind the arc, as Kool and Andre Ricks, sparked an 18-4 Bronco run which erased BSU's halftime lead and eqauled a double-figure deficit less than seven minutes into the half. Ricks was a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc, while Kool finished 4-for-8. As a team, the Broncos hit 10 threes on the afternoon, including 6-of-8 in the second half. The lead reached a game-high 12 points on two occasions, before a late surge from BSU cut the gap to 62-58 on a pair of free throws from Mills with 3:17 remaining.
Playing in his final game at Worthen Arena, Mills scored 22 points, grabbed four rebounds and posted four steals in 37 minutes of action. Fellow seniros Chris Ames finished with nine points, while D'Andre Peyton notched six points. Ball State would close to within four points on two more tries in the final minute of action, but Western Michigan responded from the free throw line to secure the win. The Broncos made 39 trips to the charity stripe and connected on 27. The Cardinals were 19-of-22 from the line for the game. Kool paced all players with 27 points, while Ricks finished with 20. Indiana native Joe Reitz managed five points and five rebounds for the Broncos. Ball State ends the regular season with a 9-21 overall record and a 5-11 MAC mark. The Cardinals earned the No. 9 seed in the 2007 MAC Tournament and will sqaure off against No. 8 Eastern Michigan in the first game played Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
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