Ball State Men’s Basketball (17-13, 10-7 MAC) hosted Central Michigan (13-17, 6-11 MAC) in its final home game of the regular season on Tuesday. With emotions running high as the Ball State honored its seniors, the Cardinals held a Chippewas team, that was averaging nearly 80 points per game, to less than 70 points in an 85-68 win.
“I thought we really set the tone for the game the first eight to 10 minutes of the game and really the whole first half,” head coach James Whitford said. “We were exceptional defensively the last 15 minutes of the second half and I thought we were defensively great for 35 minutes.”
On the defensive end, the Cardinals were lead by senior forward Kyle Mallers, whose season-high three blocked shots helped Ball State set the tone.
“Kyle is a great defender,” Redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague said. “I thought all three of us [Teague, Mallers and senior Josh Thompson] are all really great defenders. We care more about defense than offense, so it doesn’t affect us when we’re not getting shots or scoring. It doesn’t stay in our minds we just lock in on the defensive end.”
Central Michigan had come into the game leading the Mid-American Conference in scoring, averaging 79.9 points. At halftime, they had scored just 25 points, while only shooting 26 percent from the field.
“I thought we did a good job on our scouting,” Mallers said. “To hold DiLeo and Morgan to shoot low volume from three because they’re always looking for their shot. And I thought we did a good job making hard plays at the rim, making things hard inside. I think we are all happy with our defensive effort.”
Central Michigan’s Dallas Morgan who is the team’s second-leading 3-point shooter and David DiLeo who is the MAC all-time leader in 3-point shooting shot a combined three for 11 from deep. Morgan still led the team in scoring alongside his teammate Rob Montgomery each of which posted 19 points in the loss.
Ball State’s defense was effective in limiting the opposition’s offense, but there were some struggles on the offensive end that the Cardinals faced. There were 17 turnovers that lead to 19 Central Michigan points. Four of these turnovers came from Teague who for the third time in the last five games would foul out, this time after playing just 21 minutes.
Despite the foul trouble and turnovers, Teague would still lead the team with a 16 point, 10 rebound double-double. Scoring was balanced though as Mallers chipped in 15 and a season-high three assists, and despite shooting two of 11 from three-point range junior guard Ishmael El-Amin would add 12 points.
The next game for the Ball State is a trip to Northern Illinois on Saturday. The game is an 8 p.m. tipoff. The team now controls its own destiny as for MAC Tournament seeding.