With a win against Central Michigan on March 1, Ball State could have clinched the West Division of the Mid-American Conference outright on Senior Night.

A win could have brought the men's basketball team its first outright division title since 2002, the last year it finished a season with 20 wins as well. 

However, the Cardinals fell to the Chippewas 65-57. Junior forward Franko House credited the loss to the team's slow start. 

MAC records

*1 - Akron (12-5)

2 - Central Michigan (10-7)

3 - Ohio (10-7)

4 - Kent State (10-7)

5 - Ball State (10-7)

6 - Buffalo (9-8)

*Clinched No. 1 seed and first-round bye in MAC tournament

“We came out kind of lackadaisical,” House said. “I don’t know if [Senior Night] made our energy die, but we didn’t come out with the right energy and didn’t play with the right energy until the second half.”

House was one of three Cardinals in double figures, as he set another career-high. He shot 23 points with an 11-14 showing from the free-throw line.

Junior forward Ryan Weber also noticed the team's slow start. Ball State began the game trailing Central Michigan 28-19.

“Our overall intensity wasn’t where it needed to be at the beginning of the game,” Weber said. “We stepped up and started going a lot harder when our backs were against the wall — it was too late.”

With the loss, Ball State moved to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the MAC. The Cardinals can still secure one of four first-round byes in the MAC tournament with a win at Northern Illinois on March 4, along with a loss by either Central Michigan, Kent State or Ohio, who all play on March 4 as well.

The Cardinals are now in a four-way tie for the second-place spot in the MAC, a tiebreaker that would put them in fifth place if the conference tournament were to start today, since they are 1-3 overall against the other three 10-7 teams.

Akron secured the No. 1 seed and the MAC East Division title with its 91-76 win against Ohio. Ball State, Central Michigan, Kent State, Ohio and Buffalo are all fighting for the 2-4 seeds in the tournament.

The MAC tournament starts on March 7 at the No. 5-8 campus sites and then transfers to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 10. The championship is set for March 12.