KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Ball State men's basketball team saw its 2011-12 season come to an end as the ninth-seeded Cardinals dropped a 69-63 contest against eighth-seeded Western Michigan Monday night in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at University Arena. The loss ends the Cardinals' season at 15-15 on the year while the Broncos advance to Cleveland for the second round.
"Obviously this is a disappointing end to our season," head coach Billy Taylor said. "I thought our guys were dialed in with their preparation for the game and that was evident in the first few minutes. Unfortunately, we couldn't sustain what we built early on and then we amassed too many fouls as the game progressed."
Sophomore guard Jesse Berry (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson) ended his season on a high note as he scored 19 points off the bench in 27 minutes. Berry connected on 7-of-15 from the field, including three three-pointers, while grabbing five rebounds. He finished the year reaching double figures in six of the last seven games, averaging 13.3 points over the final seven games of the year.
Junior guard Jauwan Scaife (Muncie, Ind./Muncie Central) added 14 points off the bench in 23 minutes. Scaife hit a pair of three-pointers while also going 6-of-6 from the charity stripe as the Cardinals' bench out-scored the WMU bench 38-26.
The game is the final contest in the careers of Ball State seniors Randy Davis (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth), Jarrod Jones (Michigan City, Ind./Michigan City) and Pierre Sneed (Chicago, Ill./Simeon). The trio has played in 342 career games with 257 career starts and has led the Cardinals to 63 victories during their career.
"I am disappointed that our seniors had to end their careers this way," Taylor said. "Tonight does not take away from all of the terrific things they have done over the course of four years. Obviously, the program at Ball State was nothing when they got here and they were a part of building this thing back to a point where we had some success and we have expectations for the program once again."
Ball State came out of the gate quickly scoring the first six points of the game to open to a 13-4 lead. Six different Cardinals scored in the top opening five minutes of the game, including a three-pointer from Scaife. Berry capped the early run as he scored on the drive for the early nine-point lead.
Western Michigan started to settle in and chip away at the BSU lead until the Broncos posted an 11-2 run to take a 23-19 lead. Demetrius Ward capped the run with a three-pointer but WMU got big contributions from its bench as Shayne Whittington scored eight first half points while Dan Loney added six points.
The Cardinals went into the locker room trailing 33-30 as Berry scored with 6.5 seconds left to make it a three-point contest. Berry led the Cardinals with nine points off the bench while Scaife added seven points as a reserve. Ball State connected on 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from the field but only hit 2-of-13 (15.4%) from long range. Western Michigan connected on 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from the field and hit 2-of-4 (50%) from long range.
Western Michigan came out of the break and scored the first six points of the half and opened to a 45-35 lead. Flenard Whitfield scored the first two baskets of the second half while Whittington and Matt Stainbrook also scored in the paint to extend the WMU lead into double figures.
Ball State responded with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 45-45 with 10:14 left in the game. Scaife started the run hitting his second three-pointer while Berry scored five straight. Jones scored in the post to knot the game at 45-45.
Western Michigan answered back with five straight points and ran the lead to seven at 58-51. The Cardinals did not back down as sophomore Tyler Koch (Winchester, Ind./Wright State) hit a three-pointer in the corner and sophomore Tyrae Robinson (Gary, Ind./Bowman Academy) forced a turnover and scored in transition to make it a 58-56 contest.
Robinson pulled the Cardinals within one at 60-59 as he nailed a three-pointer with 1:48 left in the game. Ball State forced a missed three-pointer on the ensuing possession but the rebound went off the Cardinals out of bounds giving the ball back to WMU. Whitfield scored on the second chance to keep the Broncos in the lead for good as they hit seven of their last 10 free throws to seal the victory.
Ball State finished the game shooting 37.0 percent (20-of-54) from the field and 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from three-point land. Robinson finished with nine points while Jones added eight points and six rebounds in the loss.
Western Michigan connected on 48.9 percent (22-of-45) from the field and 36.4 percent (4-of-11) from long range. The Cardinals also were out-rebounded by a 35-26 margin as WMU scored 17 second-chance points. Five Broncos scored in double figures in the victory with Whitfield leading the way with 12 points and Ward adding 11 points.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 57-59 all-time against the Broncos including 18-38 all-time in Kalamazoo. The loss also drops the Cardinals to 37-25 all-time in MAC Tournament games as BSU has made 31 appearances in tournament play.