PREVIEW: Ball State men's basketball vs. Central Michigan
Sitting alone in first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division, Ball State men’s basketball travels to Mt. Pleasant for its second meeting with second-place Central Michigan Saturday.
Four of Ball State’s (16-10, 7-6 MAC) final five games, including the Saturday matchup with Central Michigan (16-10, 6-7), are against teams tied for second in the MAC West: Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois.
“It is great. I am glad that we do [control their own destiny],” head coach James Whitford said. “But, I am still thinking it one game at a time.”
Ball State stats:
Scoring offense: 78.8 points per game
Scoring defense: 74.4 points allowed per game
Field goal percentage: 46.7 percent
Leading scorer: Tayler Persons — 15.2 points per game
Central Michigan stats:
Scoring offense: 89.5 points per game
Scoring defense: 85.0 points per game
Field goal percentage: 43.1 percent
Leading scorer: Marcus Keene — 29.8 points per game
In that first game, the Cardinals have to prepare for a Central Michigan team that leads the MAC with 89.5 points per game.
The Chippewas are led by junior guard Marcus Keene, the nation's leading scorer. Keene averages 29.8 points per game, and senior guard Braylon Rayson averages 20.7 points.
“It is not just them,” Whitford said. “You have to stop the whole team. The other guys are elite 3-point shooters.”
The Chippewas make 36.8 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. Besides Keene (101) and Rayson (71), who have made a combined 173 three pointers this season, Central Michigan has junior guard Josh Kozinski (66) and freshman forward David DiLeo (56), who have also combined for 122 3-point makes.
But Central Michigan also gives up 85.0 points per game, and Ball State averages 78.8 points. The Cardinals have scored 85 or more points nine times this season.
Senior forward Ryan Weber averages 9.5 points this season, but has scored 16.6 points per game over the last three games.
“His play to me has been consistent for a couple months,” Whitford said. “He helps our team a lot, whether he is making shots like Northern or not making shots, that is really what we strive for those players to do.”
Consistency in Ball State’s production has been the key all season. With consistent play down the stretch the Cardinals can control their conference seeding, and Whitford is glad they do, but he is focused on Central Michigan.
Ball State travels to Mt. Pleasant for one of the three road trips out of five games to end the season for the Cardinals. Tipoff is slated for 4:30 p.m. at McGuirk Arena.