MAC West Division standings
Central Michigan 5-3
Western Michigan 4-4
Eastern Michigan 3-5
Northern Illinois 2-6
Ball State 2-6
Ball State men’s basketball head coach James Whitford wants his players learning from the losing quarterback in Super Bowl XLIX.
“I love what [Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback] Russell Wilson said after the [Super Bowl],” Whitford said. “‘In some ways, I feel responsible. I threw the big interception, but I don’t hang my head because I know what I put into it. I know how hard I fought, and I know how hard I prepared to get here.' ... It’s that type of mentality that you’re really trying to teach.”
After opening Mid-American Conference play with back-to-back wins over Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, Ball State has dropped six straight, falling into a last-place tie in the conference.
In its latest loss, a 79-73 defeat at Miami on Saturday, Ball State allowed the Redhawks to shoot 56.5 percent from the field, including 80.8 percent in the second half. The defensive performance nulled an offensive output in which the Cardinals made 14 three-pointers and shot 58.1 percent from the floor.
Ball State’s defensive consistency, particularly in the second half of games, has been an issue of concern all season.
“When we were 2-0 [in the MAC], we won both games because of our defense,” Whitford said. “We haven’t gotten better [defensively] from that point on. If we’re going to be able to make a run in this league, that defense has got to get better.”
In the Cardinals' two MAC wins, they allowed an average of 62 points. In the six losses, their opponents are averaging 72.67 per game.
The matchups don’t get any easier, as Ball State’s next two opponents, Buffalo and Toledo, feature two of the league’s top three scoring offenses, according to mac-sports.com
The conference’s top two scorers, Justin Moss and Julius Brown, also play for Buffalo and Toledo, respectively.
Moss currently leads the MAC with 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
“[Moss] is the player of the year in the conference as of today,” Whitford said. “He’s special, so it’s going to take a great effort on our part.”
The Bulls are far from a one-man show, however, with sophomore guard Shannon Evans a contender for the All-MAC First Team, while 6-foot-8 Virginia transfer Will Regan averages six points and four rebounds.
Ball State hosts Buffalo at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Toledo at 2 p.m. Saturday.
With 10 games remaining in the regular season, Whitford wants his players to intensify their focus, play their hardest and accept the outcome whether it's a win or a loss.
“I want us to get better every day,” Whitford said. “As simple as that sounds, for me to set any hard objective goals goes against the nature of sports. ... Every opportunity for us to play a game is an opportunity for us to play a great game. [Buffalo and Toledo] are both good challenges, but they are great opportunities for us.”