ATLANTA (AP) — It took a few minutes for Jarron Coleman and Ball State to get cranked up, but once the Cardinals found their footing they stomped Georgia Tech in a 65-47 victory over the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday night.
The Cardinals (6-4) were not especially sharp while turning the ball over 20 times, and the Yellow Jackets (4-5) had 23 turnovers of their own, 16 in a dreadful first half in which they made just 5-of-22 shots to fall behind 31-15 by the break.
Coleman scored 10 of his game-high 17 points in that first half, including a pair of 3-pointers in a 13-0 run that turned an 8-7 deficit into a 20-8 lead. Tech never again was closer than 10 points.
“We really played our best game of the year by far on both sides of the ball,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “It was a big win for us.”
Senior center James Banks III led the Jackets with 13 points and nine rebounds before a sparse crowd in McCamish Pavilion. In the first half, the Yellow Jackets had 16 turnovers in 34 possessions.
Ball State entered the game 13th nationally with 10.3 made 3-pointers per game. The Cardinals’ shooting prowess pulled Tech out of its preferred 1-3-1 zone and the Jackets deployed several unusual lineups as swingman Jordan Usher made his Tech debut one year after transferring from Southern California.
“It’s embarrassing, not because we lost by so much but just the way we played and the energy we brought,” Banks said.
Ball State built a 31-15 halftime lead on 12-of-24 shooting and might have created a bigger advantage had they not turned the ball over 11 times. Ball State’s Kyle Mallers had 11 points and seven rebounds in the half.
Georgia Tech pulled within 41-29 on a layup by Banks with 11:18 left in the game but the Cardinals went on to lead by as many as 30 points.
Coleman was more pleased that Ball State limited Tech to 33.3 percent shooting than he was to score.
“We take pride in our defense and let the offense take care of itself,” he said. “I would definitely say it’s a confidence boost . . . We finally got it together for the whole 40.”
Tech deployed full-court pressure most of the second half, but Ball State held steady and cruised to its first victory over a team from a power five conference this season as Tahjai Teague pitched in seven of his nine points in the second half. The Cardinals finished 10-of-23 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We’re small compared to them but we can shoot threes from the (power forward) and the (center),” Whitford said. “It was hard for (Tech) to play (forward) Moses Wright and James Banks together, and to an extent (forward) Evan Cole . . . they were playing lineups they weren’t really comfortable with.”
Ball State: Coleman has caught fire for the Cardinals. The redshirt freshman guard from Indianapolis averaged 5.7 points over the first six games, and in back-to-back games has scored 20 points against IUPUI and 17 at Tech. He made 7 of 10 shots against Georgia Tech, including 3 of 4 3-pointers.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are in a deep rut, and their leading players are right in the middle of the mess. Mike Devoe averaged 23.8 points over Tech’s first six games, but the sophomore guard has scored seven, five and 11 points against Syracuse, Kentucky and Ball State. He’s made just 8 of 37 shots in that span after hitting 59% before that.
Usher’s debut for the Jackets was a disaster. The junior from nearby Canton, Georgia, started in place of transfer guard Bubba Parham, who has been starting in place of injured junior point guard Jose Alvarado. Usher committed five turnovers and picked up three fouls in less than eight minutes in the first half. He was called for his fourth foul about four minutes into the second half and finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting. “The Jordan Usher today is not the Jordan Usher that has been in practice,” said Tech coach Josh Pastner. “I haven’t seen the Jordan Usher that played today.”
PACKING IT IN
Ball State practically conceded the 3-point shot to Tech, packing the paint against the Jackets. Tech managed to connect on just 4-of-16 3-point shots and other than rarely-used sub Shembari Phillips, who made both of his long-distance tries, the Jackets were 2 for 14. “We were worried about their size and them scoring at the rim,” Whitford said.
Ball State: The Cardinals next play Washington, Sunday, in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will play Boise State Sunday, also in the Diamond Head Classic.