MAC PREVIEW: Ball State men's basketball looks to regroup in conference play
The Ball State men's basketball team brought a five-game winning streak, a 9-4 overall record and a whole lot of momentum into Mid-American Conference play this season.
But that confidence soon dwindled as the Cardinals dropped two of the first three conference games. On Jan. 3 the Cardinals traveled to Kent, Ohio, to take on Kent State in both teams' first conference matchup.
The Cardinals came up short, falling to the Golden Flashes 100-90. Offense was the theme of the night for both teams in a high-scoring back-and-forth battle. Shooting nearly 48 percent from the field and having five players reach double figures normally would give the Cardinals a win. But Kent State, much like the past two seasons, was just a little bit better.
The Golden Flashes connected on nine of its 19 3-point attempts and went an astounding 31 of 31 from the free-throw line, setting a MAC record.
The Cardinals showed promise in the last four non-conference games, only turning the ball over on average 13 times per game. But in the second MAC game against Bowling Green, the Cardinals got sloppy. They turned the ball over 18 times, which led to 18 points for Bowling Green. Prior to the matchup, the Cardinals had been red hot from beyond the arc, averaging 38 percent, but the Falcons smothering defense forced the Cardinals to only hit 4 of 25 from 3-point range. Ultimately, the Cardinals fell to the Falcons 76-71, putting them at 9-6 and 0-2 in the MAC.
On Jan. 10 the Cardinals (10-6, 1-2 MAC) defeated Miami (8-9,1-3 MAC) by a score of 85-74. Ball State had five players in double figures, led by senior forward Franko House with 20 points. The Cardinals shot 55 percent from the field. Ball State got a big boost from its bench, which provided 27 points. The RedHawks rank fourth in the East Division.
Next up for the Cardinals is Buffalo (8-7, 1-1 MAC) Jan. 14. The Bulls lost to Toledo but defeated Central Michigan. Buffalo leads the MAC in blocked shots with 71 on the season and averaging 4.7 per game.
On Jan. 17 the Cardinals host Central Michigan (10-5, 0-2 MAC). The Chippewas rank first in the MAC in scoring, averaging 88 points per game. But Central Michigan ranks last in scoring defense, giving up on average 81.2 points per game.
The Cardinals will travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to take on Eastern Michigan (9-6, 1-1 MAC) Jan. 24. Another high-power offense, the Eagles average 83.8 points per game. With the second-most blocked shots and most steals in the MAC, Eastern Michigan gets a lot of easy looks in transition and are shooting 45.6 percent from the field.
On Jan. 28 the Cardinals will host Western Michigan (4-10, 0-2 MAC). The Broncos are a young team — with eight freshmen on the roster, Western Michigan relies heavily on junior guard Thomas Wilder, who is averaging 16.3 points per game.
Toledo (9-6, 2-0 MAC) will be in town Jan. 31. Toledo ranks second in the MAC in field goal percentage shooting an average of 48 percent per game. The Rockets rank first in the West Conference after beating both Buffalo and Miami.
On Feb. 7 the Cardinals will travel to Akron (12-3, 2-0 MAC), who have beat Bowling Green and Western Michigan. The Zips rank first in the MAC in field goal percentage, averaging 48 percent per game. Akron is currently first in the East Division.
Ohio (10-3, 2-0 MAC) will travel to Ball State Feb. 11. The Bobcats had a strong non-conference season and continued with momentum into conference play. They have the No. 1 defense in the conference. Senior forward Antonio Campbell ranks in the top five in scoring and rebounding in the conference. Ball State allowed Campbell to score 26 points and grab 10 rebounds when they faced off last season.
On Feb. 14 the Cardinals will travel to DeKalb, Illinois, to take on Northern Illinois (9-6, 1-1 MAC). Opening up the season, Northern Illinois loss to Miami but rebounded with a win against Central Michigan.