Men’s Hoops Knocks off No. 8 Notre Dame on Persons’ Late 3

 

 

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Ball State men’s basketball team went into the Joyce Center and knocked off No. 8 Notre Dame, 80-77, Tuesday night for the program’s first victory over a ranked opponent since 2001.

Junior point guard Tayler Persons scored 24 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds as Ball State handed Notre Dame its first non-conference home loss in four years.

The Cardinals led the majority of the night until Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 77 with 21 seconds left. Ball State had a timeout left but did not call it. Persons kept the ball, went around a screen at the top of the key and buried the game-winner.

Ball State (5-4) defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since defeating No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 UCLA on back-to-back days at the 2001 Maui Invitational.

“I’m just so proud of our guys,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “What a great win. We’ve come a long way. You think about where we started. To get to this point where we can beat a team like this on the road is amazing.”

Tahjai Teague finished with 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds for Ball State, while Sean Sellers scored 11 points and pulled down seven big boards. Trey Moses scored nine points as the Cardinals went to him often down the stretch, while Kyle Mallers and Jeremie Tyler added eight each.

Ball State took a 34-29 lead into halftime after a Mallers jumper at the buzzer. The Cardinals held Notre Dame (7-2) to 37 percent shooting and just 2-for-10 from 3-point range over the opening 20 minutes.

BSU led despite not having a great offensive half itself, making only 39 percent, but the defense was what had the Cardinals on top.

“Defensively we were outstanding, and that’s why we were in that position,” Whitford said. “It’s not a fluke thing. We could feel it. We could sense we had a chance to win this game.”

Notre Dame came out hot in the second half, hitting its first six shots to take the lead, but the Cardinals stood their ground.

Ball State eventually built a lead as big as nine points in the second half at 67-58 with 6:45 to play. Notre Dame went on a 9-2 run to trim the lead to two, but Moses hit a pair of free throws and Sellers came up with a huge tip-in to push the lead to 73-67 with 3:02 left.

“Sean made all the gritty plays tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Whitford said. “He did everything right for 40 minutes. He was unbelievable because of all the hustle plays. He was excellent defensively on Rex Pflueger. His growth in this game was incredible.”

Notre Dame did not go away. The Irish still trailed 75-69 after Sellers found Moses for a lay-up inside of two minutes but stormed back with eight of the next 10 points to tie things on Farrell’s 3-pointer before the Cardinals’ late heroics.

Preseason All-American Bonzie Colson led Notre Dame with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, while Farrell finished with 14 points and eight assists.

Ball State will now return to Muncie for a six-game home stand starting Saturday with a 2 p.m. contest against Valparaiso on Toys for Tots Military & Public Safety Appreciation Day.

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