MEN'S BASKETBALL: Ohio presents first MAC Tourney test for Ball State
Bobcats moved to second round after defeating Rockets on Tuesday
The Ball State men's basketball team plays Ohio in the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday in Cleveland.
Ball State secured the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye after the regular season. As the No. 5 seed, Ohio got to this point by beating No. 12 Toledo 74-57 in their first-round game Tuesday.
These two teams have a history.
This is the second year in a row Ball State has matched up with Ohio in its first game. The Bobcats beat the Cardinals in Muncie last year to advance to Cleveland.
Ohio won the MAC Tournament and made an improbable run in the NCAA Tournament, upsetting Georgetown.
Despite the past disappointments, coach Billy Taylor said the team is focused on being mentally prepared this time around.
"We are who we are as a basketball team, but there is room for improvement," Taylor said. "We talked with our guys about the mental discipline that we need to have going into Thursday. There are going to be a lot of challenges, distractions, you name it.
"We want to show that attention to detail. We want to be really mentally engaged on Thursday."
In the teams' lone matchup this season, Ohio beat Ball State in Muncie 61-60.
Ohio and the rest of the MAC East teams gave Ball State trouble during the divisional crossover. Looking at tournament matchups down the road, Ball State could play Kent State, Miami or Akron. All are teams who beat the Cardinals during the regular season.
"When you look at the games against the MAC East, most of the games went down to the final possession or so," Taylor said. "All the games were very competitive and very close. Now you are talking about the second time meeting potentially for some of these teams. You know personnel, there is no home court advantage, so it's up to you to go out and play your game and play your best."
Ball State's players seem confident about their chances. Throwing out all the variables, freshman Tyrae Robinson said it's all about who can deliver and just play basketball.
"The focus has been keeping energy positive," Robinson said. "The main task is just, whoever we play against, just go out there and play ball. That's what we focus on on that day."