MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State begins tough road trip at Ohio
Team will look for more bench scoring against Bobcats
After a home loss to Mid-American Conference East Division leader Akron on Tuesday, Ball State will look to rebound on the road against Ohio.
Although Ohio leads the all-time series 39-32, the past 10 years each team is 6-6 in the series.
Last season the Bobcats edged a one-point regular season victory in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals then avenged the loss in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament with a 76-73 overtime victory.
Coach Billy Taylor said although the Bobcats have had several new faces emerge into new prominent roles, the Ohio offense still runs through the hands of point guard DJ Cooper.
"It's difficult because (Cooper) has the ball in his hands so much," he said. "Our goal will be to try to limit his good looks and make sure we have bodies in front of him. We can't let him get into the paint and destroy our defense."
Taylor said he was pleased by how Ball State (12-6, 4-2 MAC) defended Cooper in last years' matchup in Muncie. The Cardinals held Cooper to just four points on 1-for-10 shooting in the 61-60 Ohio victory.
However, in the MAC tournament quarterfinals Cooper had 19 points and 10 assists.
Cooper isn't the only offensive threat the Bobcats present, though. Guard Walter Offutt, an Ohio State transfer, has been a consistent source of offense.
"(Offutt) is a big strong guard who gets to the basket," Taylor said. "He's a guy that's really dangerous and has played well for them. They have a little different cast around Cooper than last year."
Cooper was named to the MAC Freshman team last year and is a preseason All-MAC selection this season. He leads Ohio in scoring with 14 points per game and has dished out 111 total assists. Offutt and Ivo Baltic each add 11 points per game.
Ball State is led by a pair of its own preseason All-MAC selections, Jarrod Jones and Randy Davis. Jones is second in the conference with 17 points per game and averages 8 boards. Davis leads the nation with his 3.72 assist/turnover ratio and adds 8 points per game.
Taylor said getting production from the bench will be key for the Cardinals, which starts with Jesse Berry.
Against Akron, Ball State's bench was outscored 30-4. Berry, who is second on the team averaging 9.8 points, has been a spark for the Cardinals off the bench all season and Taylor said his production offensively is a must.
"We've come to count on his production," he said. "The fact that he comes off the bench and brings a boost of energy is important. We need those consistent scoring numbers from him. "
The Cardinals are currently in a stretch where four of their five games will be on the road, including today. Taylor said the grind of road games is tough, but being on television brings exposure.
"It's been a challenge. It's always tough when you're playing on the road and you have a bunch of games in a short amount of time," Taylor said. "But when you look at these opportunities to play on ESPNU, Sports Time Ohio with the game versus Akron, we've had a lot of TV exposure. That's great for our guys and for our program. Our guys are excited about those opportunities."
Picked to finish third in the preseason polls, Ohio (16-4, 4-2 MAC) is currently sitting near the top of the MAC East.
"Ohio's talent is terrific and they've got a great point guard in Cooper," Taylor said. "They're certainly in the discussion for one of the best teams in the MAC."
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