MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State heads back to MAC West
Game against Toledo could help end drought of wins
Ball State is heading back to the "wild west."
Ball State's game against Toledo tonight marks its first against an opponent in the Mid-American Conference West since January, which should provide more appealing competition than the East.
The Cardinals have gone 1-5 against MAC East opponents and 5-0 against MAC West opponents this season.
Although Ball State's struggles with the crossover into the East were obvious, coach Billy Taylor said his team has been in a similar position already this season.
"Everyone knows we had adversity after our trip to Alaska and we came back and regrouped," he said. "Our team knows we have the ability to win a number of ball games consecutively when we play the right way."
Toledo has only one MAC win this season, which came against Western Michigan, a team that recently took a half game lead over Ball State in the MAC West.
It's the first time all year Cardinals haven't held the top spot.
Despite Toledo's 4-21 overall record and 1-10 record in MAC play, Taylor said the Rockets have some playmakers, one of them being Malcolm Griffin.
Griffin leads the team in scoring at 13 points per contest. He is also second on the team in 3-pointers with 29 and has dished out 92 assists.
Ball State (14-10, 6-5 MAC) defeated Toledo earlier in the year 70-60, but Griffin dropped 25 points and shot 10-for-18 from the field.
"[Griffin] is a pretty versatile scorer," Taylor said. "He's a 6-foot-4, 220-pound point guard. You don't see a lot of those throughout the course of the season."
Taylor said besides Griffin's ability to drive the lane and create shots, he has added a jump shot this year.
"He can knock down the 3-point shot. He's shooting with confidence." Taylor said. "His team needs his jump shot and drive to basket. If we can do a good job of containing Griffin, it certainly helps our chances."
Taylor wouldn't say whether tonight's game is a must win, but playing the team with the worst record in the conference while riding a two-game losing streak makes it seem as if the Rockets couldn't have shown up at a better time for the Cardinals.
"We thought it was perfect timing last year to win the MAC West — and we didn't," Taylor said. "We just need to go out and play well. We have an opportunity to get back to ourselves and start playing that good solid team basketball again."
For Jauwan Scaife, facing Toledo gives Ball State a chance to find a groove, especially since the game is in Worthen Arena.
The sophomore guard said he hopes to change last season's mark of beating only two MAC West opponents. He is staying positive with five West teams remaining on Ball State's schedule.
"This is a great time for us to get going," Scaife said. "We've lost two in a row. [We] didn't do well in the East, so it's a good time to get a turnaround and start running through the West."