Guard Tayler Persons takes a shot during the first half of the Cardinals
PREVIEW: Ball State men’s basketball vs. Eastern Kentucky
Ball State men’s basketball will host Toys for Tots Military and Public Safety Appreciation Day Dec. 10, when the Cardinals (5-4) take on Eastern Kentucky (6-4).
“Anything we do that ties Ball State in with the community is a really good thing,” head coach James Whitford said. “Everybody that lives here in Muncie understands how interconnected the university and the city are, and for us to be apart that kind of thing that connects us all is great.”
Fans presenting a military or public safety (police, fire department, etc.) ID will receive free admission, and there are discounted tickets for individuals who donate a toy to the Toys for Tots program.
Ball State points per game: 77.6
Eastern Kentucky points per game: 79.6
Ball State shooting percentage: 48.1 percent
Eastern Kentucky shooting percentage: 42.5 percent
Ball State 3-point shooting percentage: 39.2 percent
Eastern Kentucky 3-point shooting percentage: 34.5 percent
On the court, Whitford spoke highly of Eastern Kentucky’s offensive game and he is looking forward to the test.
“You have to deal with Nick Mayo for sure, he is great, he is like real good,” Whitford said. “They can shoot it from a number of spots. They are really talented on offense. They are probably as difficult a challenge guarding them as anybody we’ve played to this point this year.”
Eastern Kentucky’s sophomore forward Nick Mayo is averaging 19.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He shoots 48.5 percent from the field and his three-point shooting percentage isn’t far behind at 46.7 percent.
“You have to defend him at all three levels,” Whitford said. “It is going to be a team effort. There is not one guy that can be expected to guard him one on one.”
Ball State beat Bradley 80-63 in its last game. Whitford said his team "played the game the right way" but there are still improvements he wants to see on the offensive and defensive ends of the ball.
“There are two things we really need to work on,” Whitford said. “Our man-to-man defense has got to get better and our turnovers have got to cut down.”
In the last three games, the Cardinals have turned the ball over 39 times, though sophomore point guard Tayler Persons has been improving. Against Bradley he had six assists and two turnovers.
“[Persons’] numbers in our five wins, he is at 36 assists and 12 turnovers and our losses he has a negative assist to turnover ratio,” Whitford said. “When he is at that three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, we will have a great chance to win.”
Whitford also said the Cardinals need to keep the high level of energy they had against Bradley.
“It is something we have to work on that is a year-round thing,” Whitford said. “I am confident we will have moments when it is great and moments when it is down, we just got to hope the moments when it is great it is a little better and the moments when it is down it’s a little less.”
At the end of practice Dec. 8, Whitford and Persons sat on the bench talking while the rest of the team went to the locker room. That conversation was about learning how to do things consistently to become a good team.
“What I was just talking to Tayler about it’s not just about winning Saturday,” Whitford said. “It is about becoming a really good team.”
Fewer turnovers, solid man-to-man defense and, of course, a win would be a step in the right direction.
Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Worthen Arena.