MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State visits Central Michigan looking to get back on track in MAC play
Chips' 3-point shooting a concern for Cards
Defending home-court advantage becomes even more important during the Mid-American Conference season, where teams are typically separated by only a few games at the end of the year.
Ball State University got off to a poor start last weekend, losing to Northern Illinois University at Worthen Arena in their MAC opener. Now Ball State will visit Central Michigan University, the preseason division favorites, Wednesday night.
"We gave away our home court, which in the MAC is something that's really important," coach Billy Taylor said.
It's early in the season, but the Cardinals do not want to fall two games behind the Chippewas already.
"It's a 16-game season, and we're only one game in," Taylor said. "You don't want to put too much on one loss and let Northern Illinois beat us twice."
Since Taylor became coach at Ball State, the Cardinals have not started 0-2 in conference play.
Central Michigan scored a road victory of their own last Saturday at the University of Toledo. The Chippewas rely heavily on a trio of seniors who are all good 3-point shooters. Guards Jordan Bitzer and Robbie Harman have the second and third best 3-point shooting percentages in the MAC, and forward Chris Kellermann has the ability to connect from long range.
"Harman and Bitzer are terrific 3-point shooters," Taylor said. "Kellermann has slowed percentage wise, but he creates a tough matchup because he's a post player that can step out and shoot threes."
Bitzer and Harman both shoot better than 45 percent from behind the arc, while Kellermann is shooting only 23 percent on 3-pointers.
Regardless of who takes the 3-pointers, Taylor wants to make sure the opportunities are limited.
"Those three guys really stretch the defense in terms of covering a lot of ground," Taylor said. "We have to be very in tuned to their personnel and limit the amount of open looks we give them."
Ball State's starting five has been fluid recently, as Taylor has used four different lineups in the past four games. Taylor hopes to find some consistency and feels that forward Mo Hubbard may be able to provide that.
The sophomore has started the last two games after struggling with a shoulder injury early in the year. Hubbard is averaging 1.8 points per game and 2.1 rebounds in just under 12 minutes.
"I'm still waiting for him to break through and get back to the level of play we saw from him last year," Taylor said. "I think he's very close to breaking through."