Senior forward Bo Calhoun for the Ball State Cardinals tries to move past Eastern Michigan’s defense in Worthen Arena on Feb. 27. Grace Ramey // DN File
Ball State men’s basketball set for home opener against in-state rival Indiana State University
Ball State men's basketball (1-0) home opener against Indiana State Tuesday will be the teams only home matchup in their first six games.
Even so, head coach James Whitford says he can hear the excitement about Ball State basketball all around Muncie.
“We are real excited, you know I am real excited,” Whitford said. “I have been hearing a lot of basketball talk everywhere I go in the city. So it will be great to have a big home crowd for a really big important game for us against our in-state rival.”
Ball State is coming off its first season-opening win after the Cardinals beat the Saint Louis Billikens last Friday 85-64 as part of the MGM Grand Main Event.
Even after the 21-point victory, Whitford knows that the Cardinals must step up their game against the in-state rival.
“Our defensive rebounding was poor, we didn’t do a great job of blocking out,” Whitford said. “What we did well against Saint Louis is not the same thing we have to do against Indiana State.”
Ball State posted a 13-6 record at Worthen Arena compared to its 6-8 on the road a season ago, and one of those road losses came at Indiana State 73-61.
The Cardinals got off to a slow start on offense in the last game against the Sycamores, shooting just 34.5 percent from the field in the first half.
Against Saint Louis, however, Ball State didn't have that problem on the offensive end, opening the game with a 13-2 run.
“Shooting well early certainly helps your confidence, and I thought the Saint Louis game, making our first three 3-point shots helped our confidence.” Whitford said. “It forced them to pull out a little bit which opened things up inside. Hopefully it happens again this game but if it doesn’t we just have to stay the course.”
While Ball State enters 1-0, Indiana State comes in with an 0-1 record after its 80-78 in overtime loss at Northern Illinois.
The Sycamores are returning their second leading scorer from last season in junior guard Brenton Scott who averaged 14.6 points per game and scored 28 points in the teams season opener.
“He [Scott] has an incredibly high skill level, he is going to score points,” Whitford said. “Our job is to make him shoot really tough shots and he is going to make some, that is just who he is. We just have to make sure every shot he takes is challenged and then we live or die with our consequences.”
This is the fourth time Whitford will see Indiana State and he does not think it gets much easier when getting ready for a Greg Lansing-coached team.
“Indiana State is hard to prepare for,” Whitford said. “They are very good on defense. I have great respect for how they run their program, they are very sound defensively.”
Ball State is set to tip off against Indiana State at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals next home game won’t come until Nov. 29 against IU Kokomo.