Game #9-159: South Dakota at Ball State CardinalsDecember 8, 2012 1:00 pm
In a recent essay on this site, I wondered how rivalries were determined, and fretted a bit that there didn't seem to be as many obvious rivalries as there once were. We see some stories of clear rivalries described here, such as the Battle of the Boulevard and some of the Big Five matchups in Philadelphia, in which local foes get together once each year for a hotly contested game. My Ballyfest Destiny captain, Bill Harty, has even written of his New Mexico State team having a pair of rivalries so nice, they have to do them twice. The Aggies have two non-conference games each year against both New Mexico and UTEP. I have been most impressed by the passions expressed on tales of these rivalries, and wished I could get an opportunity to witness something like that firsthand. Then, suddenly, last week, I found myself entering what might be the origin of the next great intercollegiate rivalry.Ball State University and the University of South Dakota would not seem to be natural rivals, and this game would be their first-ever meeting, yet their respective athletic departments have planted the seeds of a potential firestorm of emotion. The paths of these two foes, one a relatively established basketball school with a scattered history of past success, and the other a former Division II powerhouse entering its just fifth season in Division I, are intersecting twice this month in a thrilling home-and-home series, with the two battles separated by just seven days. As I watched the teams warming up, my mind raced about the future possibilities of this rivalry that was being born right before my eyes. Would this game, and the one immediately following, prompt a great demand to see the series repeated annually? Would a traveling trophy be created, perhaps in the form of a statuette featuring famous alumni Tom Brokaw and David Letterman? Would each team lure its recruits with the promise of the annual December trip to Muncie, IN, or Vermillion, SD? I knew it was too soon to be able to answer such questions, but I suddenly was fired up for this game!
I had anticipated a fairly competitive contest, and I wasn't disappointed in that regard. South Dakota jumped out to an early lead with an old-fashioned three-point play by senior guard Juevol Myles, a transfer from Kansas State. I noticed before the game that Myles had scored 26 points in an early-season 20-point thrashing of Summit League foe IUPUI, and I was very interested to watch him play. Sadly for Myles, all of his points on this day came on that first possession; he missed all eight of his remaining shots, and was basically a non-factor for the rest of the game.
The Coyotes got off to a 6-0 lead, then the home team responded as you'd expect them to do in a great rivalry. The Cardinals ran off twelve straight points, and eventually took a 19-11 lead. Junior guard Steve Tecker then elevated his game for the visitors, and drew South Dakota into a 21-21 tie. The rest of the first half was a nip-and-tuck affair, and the teams went to the locker room even at 26.
I tried to capture the excitement in the arena as the first half wound down, but I can't help but feel that my photography skills don't do justice to what we were actually feeling in person. I guess you had to be there.
As the second half unfolded, my attention focused on the battle of the big men, South Dakota's 6'-9" junior Trevor Gruis and Ball State's 6'-8" junior Majok Majok. Gruis picked up a couple of early baskets to give the Coyotes the lead, and I noticed that Majok seemed to have an uncanny ability to grab nearly every misfired shot attempt. So dominant was Majok in this facet of the game, that I found myself determined to capture a photo of him grabbing a rebound. For your enjoyment, here is the 15th of his game-high 16 rebounds.
With the game tied at 39 with 11 minutes left to play, the competitive balance of the contest shifted suddenly. Ball State freshman guard, Marcus Posley, who had an impressive 29 minutes of action in a reserve role, scored two baskets in a row, and senior teammate Zach Fields followed with a pair of buckets of his own. The Cardinals soon found themselves with a double-digit lead. South Dakota had one more run left in them, cutting the lead to three, but Jauwan Scaife closed the game with seven straight points, giving Ball State a 62-51 win, and sending Charlie Cardinal on a victory lap on his ever-present scooter.
While the game was plenty enjoyable enough to justify the $9 price of admission, it was merely secondary in terms of the human drama on display. You see, this was my fourth visit to Worthen Arena in recent years, and I've always made note of the relatively interesting on-court entertainment during timeouts featured by Ball State and their self-proclaimed "Director of Fun." However, I was totally unprepared for what I witnessed during the media timeout at the under-eight minute mark of the second half.
The Shane Company has 20 retail stores scattered throughout the United States, and is best known for its radio tagline, "Your Friend in the Diamond Business." Its sponsorship of Ball State basketball is a peculiar one, made even more so by the fact that its nearest store is located on the outskirts of Indianapolis, nearly 50 miles from campus. Nevertheless, it sponsored a contest at this particular timeout. A young couple, presumably both Ball State students, was pulled from the audience to form the participating "team." Four mats were carefully placed on the floor. One mat featured the Shane Company logo, and was prominently laid across the free throw line. The other three mats featured pictures of diamonds, and were placed as follows: one about ten feet from the basket at an angle to the left, one foul-line extended just to the right of the lane, and one directly at the top of the key. The young man was given a ball, and was instructed to take one shot from each of the three diamond mats; his young lady friend stood beneath the basket and watched him prepare.
The Director of Fun indicated that the contest was ready to begin. The young man decided to take his first shot from the mat to the right of the foul line. Swish! His successful attempt was followed by some polite clapping from a portion of the sparse crowd. The young man then moved over to the left side of the lane for his second shot. He took a dribble and fired away. Swish! The crowd, now becoming slightly more engaged, applauded him for his effort. He then walked eagerly over to the third mat for the culmination of his moment in the spotlight - a three-pointer from the top of the key. He must have been too fired up, for this last shot could easily be seen to have left his hand with much too much force. However, the proverbial bank was open, and the ball caromed off the backboard and through the net. At this point, the crowd, being mildly impressed by the young man's combination of skill and good fortune, offered the fellow their support with a rather rousing ovation. Then it happened.
Lost in all of this excitement, at least to the young man, was the identity of the sponsor and the prize that it offered. As the Director of Fun escorted our triumphant hero off the court, with the forgotten young lady trailing about fifteen feet behind them, the public address announcer declared to all that the Shane Company would be providing the winner with a $50 gift card to its store for each successful attempt. Yes, as a reward for his athletic prowess, his "Friend in the Diamond Business" had awarded him with a $150 gift card. I could see the Director of Fun confirming the prize to the young man as they walked off the floor. Then, at a moment in time, with just 16 shopping days remaining before Christmas Day, came the highlight of the game. With neither of them able to see the expression of the other, he instantly recognized the decision he'd soon be facing, while she began to skip gleefully towards him. Being stunned by the immediacy of the awesomeness of the moment, my camera was not ready to capture the scene. However, for the benefit of you, the Mid-Majority reader, I commissioned my son to provide an artist's rendering of that special moment. Enjoy!
Merry Christmas to you, young man. May you make a wise decision. Just remember, Diamonds Are Forever!
at BALL STATE 62, SOUTH DAKOTA 51
SOUTH DAKOTA 4-6 (1-1) -- D. Washington 6-17 5-5 18; T. Gruis 6-10 2-4 14; K. Rowson 1-5 3-4 6; S. Tecker 6-11 1-1 15; J. Myles 1-9 1-2 3; C. Kasperbauer 1-7 0-0 2; B. Bos 4-9 0-0 9; J. Boots 0-4 0-0 0; T. Flack 1-4 0-0 2; J. Bartling 0-0 0-0 0; E. Robertson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-59 7-11 51.
BALL STATE 4-4 (0-0) -- C. Bond 4-6 3-4 11; M. Majok 3-5 3-8 9; M. Posley 4-9 2-2 12; J. Scaife 4-11 4-6 14; J. Berry 3-9 1-1 8; M. Kamieniecki 1-4 0-0 2; Z. Fields 3-3 0-1 6; B. Calhoun 0-0 0-0 0; C. Brogna 0-2 0-0 0; M. Ramey 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 13-22 62.
Three-point goals: SDAK 4-25 (J. Boots 0-4; J. Myles 0-6; S. Tecker 2-4; B. Bos 1-3; T. Flack 0-1; C. Kasperbauer 0-5; K. Rowson 1-2), BSU 5-18 (J. Scaife 2-6; J. Berry 1-6; C. Brogna 0-1; M. Posley 2-4; M. Ramey 0-1); Rebounds: SDAK 30 (T. Gruis 8), BSU 46 (M. Majok 16); Assists: SDAK 12 (J. Myles 4), BSU 14 (M. Kamieniecki 8); Total Fouls -- SDAK 17, BSU 15; Fouled Out: SDAK-T. Gruis; BSU-None.
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