MUNCIE, In. – It took six tries, but IUPUI finally got on the board with their first road win this season. They trailed 52-41 with just under 14 minutes left in the game, but answered with a game-winning run. They outscored Ball State 32-10 from that point on to turn an 11-point deficit into an 11-point win.
Darell Combs scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the final 14 minutes. He struggled to shoot overall, but made four three-pointers and all five of his free throws. Matt O’Leary showed up big as well with six of his 20 points in the final five minutes. He shot 75 percent from the floor and added three rebounds, three assists and four steals. Evan Hall‘s scored a seaosn-high 14 points, which ties his career high set last year. Francis Kiapway led Ball State with 14 points and Trey Moses added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Ball State led nearly all of the first half and took a 36-29 lead in halftime. They extended that lead into double-figures twice with layups from Moses, the second time putting them up 52-41 with 14:37 left in the game. Then Combs got in his groove and IUPUI took control. Kellon Thomas stole the ball and Combs drew a foul in transition. He made both free throws to cut the lead to nine points. Tahjai Teague split a pair of free throws on the other end, but Combs answered with a jump shot and drew another foul. He made the free throw and cut the lead to seven. Hall got in the paint for a layup the next time down and the led shrunk to five , 53-48.
Thomas missed on a couple put-back opportunities and Aaron Brennan and D.J. McCall missed the front end of one-and-one chances on the next two possessions. Thomas redeemed himself with a basket in the paint after an offensive rebound on McCall’s missed free throw. Franko House turned the ball over for Ball State which led to a dunk from Hall and the lead was just one point.
Ball State got their footing back with a 3-pointer from Kiapway, but Combs answered with a 3-pointer of his own. He blocked a shot on the defensive end and then hit another 3-pointer to put IUPUI up 58-56. Moses tied the game with 6:33 left, but IUPUI didn’t relent. They retook the lead on a free throw from McCall with 5:24 left and never looked back. O’Leary scored six straight points for IUPUI and McCall hit a pair of free throws and converted on a 3-point play to put the game out of reach.
This win looks very similar to IUPUI’s other wins and for that reason it might be unremarkable. But it was the first time they put together a performance like this on the road this season. They assisted on 60 percent of their baskets, shot better from the floor than Ball state, got to the line more than twice as often and turned the ball over less.
The most impressive part of this win though isn’t the free throws or the defense or the ball movement. It isn’t that they won without any scoring from Ron Patterson who has led IUPUI in scoring three times and averages more than 11 points per game. It’s that it was the first time they trailed big in the second half and did something about it. It was their first road win and the first win that they didn’t take control early and cruise late.
With their first road win under their belt, IUPUI will go on the road again to face Illinois Tuesday night. Illinois lost three in a row earlier in the season, but won their last two over frequent tournament teams N.C. State and Virginia Commonwealth.