MEN'S BASKETBALL: Cardinals play for early control of MAC West
Coach Taylor says team will have to overcome physical style of Western Michigan
The title of "Best in the West" is up for grabs.
The Ball State men's basketball team's conference home opener against Western Michigan on Wednesday matches up the two top teams in an otherwise weak Mid-American Conference West Division.
Ball State sits atop the entire conference with a record of 9-4. Western Michigan (8-6) is one of only two other teams with a winning record in the MAC.
Both teams currently boast three-game winning streaks, but Ball State's junior center Jarrod Jones may be the X-factor.
Since the Great Alaska Shootout in late November, Jones has been on a tear. Averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest, the center tallied four double-doubles in that span and led Ball State to six wins in seven games.
Coach Billy Taylor and junior point guard Randy Davis agree Jones' elevated play has helped the entire offense flow better.
"With Jarrod down there, with his size and athletic ability with the things he can do, it kind of helps everybody out," Davis said. "If he's being unselfish, we become really hard to guard."
In Monday's press conference, coach Billy Taylor raved about the physical nature and aggressiveness of Western Michigan.
Taylor said their overall strength provides the foundation for what the Broncos try and do on the defensive end.
"They do a good job of putting pressure on the basketball and then providing help defense," Taylor said. "So when you penetrate the ball, they're coming with a lot of activity and they're not allowing their defense to be broken down."
With easy offense hard to come by, Taylor said the little things like minimizing turnovers and rebounding are key.
"It will be important for us to take care of the basketball and get good shots every time," Taylor said. "And they do a good job on the glass so we need to rebound the basketball. We can't just settle for one shot. We're going to need multiple shots as well."
Preseason favorites to win the Western Division, Wednesday's game should show if Ball State is ready to handle the spotlight.