KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Ball State men's basketball team suffered a 78-61 setback at Mid-American Conference West Division rival Western Michigan Wednesday night at University Arena. The loss marks the fourth straight season in which the two teams have split the season series, with the home team winning all games.
"The problem for this game was our defense, or lack thereof," head coach Billy Taylor said. "We didn't do a good in the first half as we gave up five threes to Ward and nine as a team. We knew going into halftime it would be a battle of who could control the paint in the second half, but Western Michigan clearly established a presence in the paint early. There is no excuse for our defense tonight. We have to find a way to be more successful on defense if we want to have success from here on out."
Western Michigan (12-16, 6-7 MAC) out-scored the Cardinals 43-26 in the second half as it connected on 65.0 percent (13-of-20) from the field, including 4-of-6 from long range. The Cardinals conversely connected on just 28.0 percent (7-of-25) in the second half and just 9.1 percent (1-of-11) from long range.
Sophomore forward Chris Bond (Gary, Ind./Bowman Academy) led the Cardinals with 14 points in 26 minutes as he was one of three Cardinals in double figures. Junior guard Jauwan Scaife (Muncie, Ind./Muncie Central) added 10 points off the bench while sophomore guard Jesse Berry (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson) chipped in 10 points.
Western Michigan had four players in double figures in the victory with Demetrius Ward leading the way with 20 points, on the strength of 6-of-9 shooting from long range. Nate Hutcheson and Flenard Whitfield each added 15 points in the win.
The two teams traded baskets in the early going before Western Michigan heated up from the outside. The Broncos went on a 12-0 run to take a 22-10 lead and force a Ball State timeout as they hit four straight three-pointers. Ward and Brandon Pokley each hit a pair of three-pointers in the run.
Ball State (13-13, 4-9 MAC) settled down and responded with a 12-0 run of its own to tie the game at 22-22. Berry hit a pair of three-pointers in the run, including one as the shot clock expired to swing the momentum the Cardinals' way. Sophomore guard Tyrae Robinson (Gary, Ind./Bowman Academy) tied the game at 22 as he drove down the lane and hit a runner in traffic.
The evenly matched teams hit back-and-forth with the Broncos taking a 29-28 lead with just under four minutes left in the half. The Cardinals posted a 7-0 run that was capped by a three-pointer from redshirt sophomore Tyler Koch (Winchester, Ind./Wright State). Western Michigan had an answer again from the outside as Mike Douglas and Ward hit consecutive three-pointers in the final minute to send the game to halftime tied at 35-35.
The Cardinals connected on 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from the field in the first half, including 83.3 percent (5-of-6) from long range. Berry and Koch paced the attack with six points apiece as eight different Cardinals scored in the opening half. Ball State also owned a 17-11 advantage on the glass in the first half with freshman Aaron Adeoye (Marion, Ill./Marion) leading the way with five boards.
Western Michigan connected on 48.1 percent (13-of-27) from the field but hit 9-of-15 (60%) from three-point land. Ward led all first half scorers with 15 points as he was 5-of-7 from three-point land while Pokley added six points.
Western Michigan opened to an early five-point lead to start the second half before Cardinals narrowed the gap to 42-40 after a WMU technical foul. The Broncos responded with seven straight to extend the lead to nine points as Hutcheson nailed a three-pointer.
Ball State tried to gain ground and pulled within six points on numerous occasions in the half, but could not get any closer. The Cardinals trailed by six at 64-58 before the Broncos ended the game on a 14-3 run as they converted six straight free throws and hit a pair of three-pointers to cap the victory.
Ball State ended the night shooting 35.8 percent (19-of-53) from the field and 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from three-point land. The Cardinals only handed out eight assists on the night as senior guard Randy Davis (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) only played 10 minutes as he was limited due to an injury. Davis, who leads the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio, had his 82-game starting streak snapped on the night.
Western Michigan finished the game shooting 55.3 percent (26-of-47) from the field and 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from three-point land. The 13 three-pointers allowed are the most for the Cardinals this season and the most since Valparaiso hit 13 December 1, 2007.
Ball State closes out the road portion of the 2011-12 regular season Saturday afternoon as it travels to Ypsilanti, Mich., to face the MAC West leading Eastern Michigan Eagles. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. and will be televised by the Ball State Sports Network.