BSU has 1 last chance at West title

Ball State has one chance left to accomplish a task that has never been accomplished by Ball State - an outright clinch of the Mid-American Conference West Division title.

To do so, however, Ball State will have to do it on enemy territory as the team travels to Rose Arena in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to take on Central Michigan.

Ball State has only managed three wins on the road in conference play defeating Toledo, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan.

When one looks at the situation Saturday, one word comes to mind: ironic.

Before the season started, Central Michigan was picked as the MAC West favorites after earning the MAC regular-season champion crown last season.

This season, however, has not been too kind to the Chippewas. Central heads into Saturday's game having won only five conference games, losing 12. The team's overall record isn't much stronger, standing at 8-17. Now, Ball State will challenge the preseason favorites in hopes of securing an outright title.

According to head coach Tim Buckley, even though Ball State has been more successful overall this season than Central, Saturday's game will be a difficult task.

The Cardinals head to Mt. Pleasant having dropped a disappointing game against Northern Illinois Wednesday, 69-68. The loss marked Ball State's second home loss of the season.

Junior Chris Williams said Wednesday's loss was one of the tougher defeats of the year for his team.

"I'm not disappointed," he said. "I am more hurt we lost that game. After we lost to Western Michigan we thought our chance at an at-large bid was gone. They were still pumping us of getting one, but our hopes went down the drain (Wednesday) night."

Williams went on to say that after losing to not only Northern, but at Western Michigan last week, other MAC teams may be looking at Ball State a bit differently. With being looked at differently, Williams said winning Saturday is important for the title and for momentum's sake as well.

"We have to concentrate on winning and hopefully get some momentum going into Cleveland," Williams said. "Teams probably don't even respect us any more after we lose like that (to Northern Illinois) and to Western Michigan. Teams are going to be gunning for us. No one is scared of Ball State now."

After the loss Wednesday, Buckley said his team is struggling more so in the mental part of the game than the technical aspects.

"When I was a young coach I used to think the pregame speech meant a lot and that it would motivate people," Buckley said. "But motivation is internal, it's not external. You either have it within you or you don't. I don't know if there is anyone who can necessarily bring it out."

Junior Rob Robbins, who nailed four three-pointers and ended with 16 points Wednesday agreed with Buckley that it's time for the team to turn things around.

"Sometimes at this point in the season everyone sort of winds down," Robbins said. "But we need to wind back up. From now on we have to play with that urgency we need. If we do that, I think we should be all right."

When asked if he thought anyone on the team was looking ahead to the MAC Tournament in Cleveland, Robbins said that he believes the team's focus is still zeroed in on a MAC West title.

"The motivation is the outright MAC West title," Robbins said. "Regardless of Wednesday's game, Saturday's is the one that is important now. The MAC West division title is something that we wanted to get when the season started."


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