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Indiana makes it 15 straight over Ball State

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) -- Robert Vaden plays many roles for Indiana.
On Saturday night, he was pressed into service as the ignitor.

With the 17th-ranked Hoosiers sluggish and out-of-sync after an
eight-day layoff, the 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman gave them a
needed boost by pushing the ball into the middle. When Indiana
started dominating inside, his teammates kicked it back to Vaden,
who hit all six of his 3-point attempts.

He sparked the Hoosiers' key spurt in the first half, tied his
career-high with 22 points, had with six assists and led Indiana to
an 80-56 rout of Ball State.

"Over the last three or four games, he's really been aggressive
offensively," Hoosiers coach Mike Davis said. "This is the way we
expect him to play, and he's playing some great basketball."

Vaden simply would not allow the Hoosiers (8-2) to fall into the
same trap that tripped them up three weeks ago at Indiana State -- a
failure to take advantage of their mismatches and getting rattled
in front of a raucous road crowd.

Thanks to Vaden's poise and determination, the Cardinals (4-4)
were never able to exploit those advantages Saturday.

Despite having Marco Killingsworth, Indiana's top scorer and
rebounder, sit out 24 minutes because of foul trouble, the Hoosiers
still managed to win their fourth straight overall and their 15th
in a row in this series. Indiana hasn't lost to Ball State since
1937.

But against one of the nation's top defenses, Vaden and Indiana
were particularly efficient. Vaden was 8-of-11 from the field,
including the six 3s, and the Hoosiers shot 55.3 percent.

Vaden has connected on 10 straight 3-pointers in his last two
games.

"I'm just looking to make more plays for myself and my
teammates," Vaden said. "I had 22 points, but I also had six
assists, so I'm just trying to play my game."

Ball State had no answer for Indiana's depth.

After Vaden scored 17 points in the first half, Marshall
Strickland scored all 18 of his points in the final 20 minutes.
D.J. White finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in his first
start since breaking his left foot in early November.

Davis said White played with a torn ligament in his left hand,
an injury he sustained in practice Thursday.

And when the Hoosiers got Charles Bass and Skip Mills into foul
trouble, the Cardinals were in big trouble.

"They have an inside-outside game and you basically have to
pick your poison," Ball State coach Tim Buckley said. "Part of it
was fatigue, some of it was getting away from playing the way we
need to be successful and it took us too long to try to get that
back."

Initially, it looked like the Hoosiers weren't ready for their
second in-state road contest of the season.

They threw the ball away three times before making their first
basket, and Killingsworth drew his third foul -- on a technical --
midway through the first half. Killingsworth's error allowed Ball
State to close an 8-3 run and take a 20-18 lead with 7:10 to go.

That's when Vaden turned the game. He hit consecutive 3-pointers
to give Indiana the lead, then fed White who drew a foul inside.
After White's two free throws, Vaden connected on another 3 and
when the 13-0 run ended with 4:42 left in the half, Indiana led
31-20.

The Hoosiers led by as much as 44-26 in the first half before
Mills' halfcourt buzzer beater. Mills finished with 16 points,
while Bass had 12 points and six rebounds -- but the Cardinals never
generated any momentum off Mills' long shot.

"I was just trying to make something happen," Mills said. "A
lot of my shots were coming up short and they were doing a pretty
good job of double-teaming me, and I've got to get used to that."

Indiana shot 10-of-17 in the second half, extended the lead to
as many as 27 points, and, thanks to Vaden, decimated a Cardinals
defense that had ranked among the best in the nation in allowing
56.6 points per game before Saturday.

"My confidence is real high right now, and hopefully it will
stay that way," Vaden said. "Coach runs plays for guys who have
the hot hand, and I think that's the story."