Andrew Walker

Ball State University picked the wrong night again to be soft with its defensive rebounding.

Already missing one of its top post players, Malik Perry, due to a hamstring injury, the Cardinals allowed 15 offensive rebounds Wednesday night to Eastern Michigan University.

None of the rebounds had more of a significance than those in the second half, as the Cardinals lost 72-67 to the Eagles in front of 3,313 fans on Senior Night at Worthen Arena.

Senior Terrence Watson, who alongside guard Brawley Chisholm was honored prior to the duo's last home game, took all of the blame.

"I feel like I let the guys down," Watson said. "I'm a senior, I'm a captain and we got beat up on the boards. Me being a forward, that's one of my jobs, so I feel like I let the team down."

Watson can take responsibility all he wants, but coach Billy Taylor said it was a team effort that allowed the Eagles several second-chance opportunities.

"It's something that we've got to better at," Taylor said of boxing out. "We've got to get it squared away. We've got to get it taken care of. We've got to be better rebounding the basketball."

The Cardinals, however, can thank Northern Illinois University guard Jake Anderson for at least one night.

Anderson's layup with 0.01 seconds remaining gave the Huskies a 67-65 comeback win over visiting Central Michigan University last night. If Central Michigan had held on to its lead and won, the Cardinals and the Chippewas would have gone into their final two games tied atop the Mid-American Conference West Division standings.

As it stands now, Ball State (15-12, 8-6 MAC) retains its one-game lead over Central Michigan (13-14, 7-7 MAC).

The win for Eastern Michigan, however, also puts the Eagles at 7-7 in MAC play and creates a three-way tie for second place between Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan University.

Taylor said he didn't want any of these scenarios to come into play heading into last night's game.

"From a divisional race standpoint, we had a chance to give ourselves a little bit of a cushion over our competitors," he said. "I didn't think we came out with the intensity or the urgency necessary to be successful."

The Eagles (15-13) also weren't shy to chuck up the 3-pointer against the Cardinals.
With Ball State's focus on containing Eastern Michigan's two-headed paint monster in forwards Brandon Bowdry and Justin Dobbins, the Eagles oftentimes found themselves wide open in the corner for 3-point attempts.

More than often, however, Eastern Michigan didn't convert those opportunities. Out of its 32 attempted 3-pointers last night, the Eagles only made nine (28.1 percent).

"We got shooters open, and we didn't shoot the ball very well," Eastern Michigan coach Charles Ramsey said. "We missed a lot of open shots and I think that's by Billy and his staff's design."

Bowdry and Dobbins, the best and 15th-best rebounders in the conference respectively, dominated down low despite being in foul trouble. Bowdry finished with a game-high-tying 16 points and a game-best 13 rebounds, while Dobbins had 12 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five blocks.

"Every time Dobbins touched the ball ... they played two-and-a-half people on him," Ramsey said. "So he did a great job of passing out of the double team and hitting an open guy. We just didn't hit a shot — he did his job."

Despite all Ball State's troubles on the boards, it still had a chance to send the game into overtime in the final seconds.

Trailing by three, 70-67, with 11 seconds remaining in the game, sophomore guard Randy Davis took the ball past halfcourt trying to set up a game-tying 3-point attempt.

But it was déjà vu all over again for a Ball State point guard against Eastern Michigan.

First, it was Chisholm in the Cardinals' 57-53 loss to the Eagles earlier this season dribbling the ball off his knee as he passed half court looking to tie the game.

This time, it was Davis who dribbled the ball out of bounds off his knee with five seconds remaining, giving Eastern Michigan the chance to win the game at the free-throw line.

"It ended up coming down to that one play, but we lost the game over the course of the 40 minutes," Taylor said. "We've got to play much better over the first 39 minutes of the game and then we'll be in a better position in that last minute."

Despite the late blunder, Davis continued his hot play in the second half of MAC play. He finished with 16 points as he hit 3-of-4 3-pointers on the night. Sophomore center Jarrod Jones added 14 points and six rebounds.

Watson ended his home Ball State career with seven points and six rebounds, while Chisholm had four points and three boards.

Ball State still controls its own destiny when it comes to winning the MAC West title and obtaining the No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.

The Cardinals travel to the lowly University of Toledo — winless in MAC play at 0-14 — Saturday and then travel to Western Michigan in what could be a critical MAC West showdown to end the regular season March 4.