Ball State men's basketball holds off Central Michigan, NCAA leading scorer Marcus Keene
At the 8:01 mark in the first half, Ball State men's basketball (12-6, 3-2 MAC) trailed Central Michigan (11-7,1-4 MAC) by 10.
Chippewas point guard and NCAA leading scorer Marcus Keene hit one of his eight 3-pointers going into the media timeout, and the Cardinals were ready to stop the bleeding.
Ball State leading scorers
Trey Moses (20)
Tayler Persons (18)
Franko House (16)
Central Michigan leading scorers
Marcus Keene (29)
Braylon Rayson (20)
David DiLeo (14)
They didn't just stop the bleeding either, they caused it. Ball State kicked off an 18-0 run and held their reining Mid-American Conference West Division Co-Champions scoreless for nearly seven minutes. The Cardinals proved they could not only run with a Chippewas team that averages 88 points per game, but beat them 98-83.
“It was a fun college basketball game both ways,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. "They got some dynamic scorers on offense."
Chippewas' dynamic scorers are guard duo Keene and senior Braylon Rayson, who accounted for 43 of Central Michigan's 68 field goal attempts. Keene came into the matchup averaging 29 points per game, and finished with exactly that many. The five-foot-nine-inch 170-pounder proved why he is the nation's leading scorer with six acrobatic 3-pointers in the first half.
“He hit some really hard shots combined with we made some self inflicted wounds,” Whitford said. "After about 12 or 14 minutes of the game we finally started to settle in and defend a lot better. That was the difference in the game."
As the game went on, Keene's hot start cooled off. The Cardinals held him to nine second half points, only hitting nine of 25 shots from the field by games end.
Ball State dialed in its defense, but its balanced offense kept Central Michigan guessing. With five players in double figures, led by sophomore center Trey Moses with 20 points, Ball State shared the wealth in the scoring department.
"We didn't want to get caught up in, are they doing match up zone or are they man-to-man," Whitford said. "It doesn't really matter. If the guy's open in the post throw it to him. If they double team, throw it out."
Ball State's balanced scoring came from a variety of spots — 44 points in the paint, 27 points off of 3-pointers and 19 free throws all added to the balanced scoring attack.
Moses, who added 11 rebounds and four blocks to his 20 points, isn't surprised his team had such a balanced scoring effort.
"I feel were one of the deepest teams in the MAC," Moses said. "I feel like we have 12 guys that can legit play."
Since losing to Bowling Green Jan. 7, Ball Statehave won three straight games.
Whitford said the team got out-hustled in that game, but during the past three games the Cardinals have made sure that won't happen again.
Redshirt sophomore point guard Tayler Persons knows his coach preaches hustle. Persons sacrificed his body a lot in the game to get the 50/50 balls.
"You just got to keep playing like that," Persons said. "But if you look yourself in the mirror after the game and if the other team wins, they win. But we know we gave it our all."