Michael Hickey-USA TODAY Sports
Ball State's senior guard has been playing out of his mind, averaging 20 points per conference contest.
There are 22 Division I players averaging at least 20 points per game in conference play. Thanks to some silly numbers recently, Scaife is now one of them, also joining Javon McCrea as the two from the MAC with this honor.
He had a terrific freshman year, averaging 10.2 points, third best on the team and making the All-Freshman team. He followed that up with another sound sophomore year, adding a point to his scoring average while maintaining a free throw percentage near 80, a 3-point clip just under 40 percent. His junior year is when he took a step back for some reason. He started the first two games, then was moved to the bench. His point scoring was cut in half, his free throw and 3-point shooting went down about eight percentage points, and his minutes were cut down by about 10 per contest. Overall he was, at best, the seventh man. Maybe this was because other players were coming on stronger, but they weren't a great team last year.
But that's all in the past. Scaife returned to starting this year and had a decent OOC run for the Cardinals, bringing his scoring back to his underclassman levels. Then once MAC play hit ... something just clicked. Only once — a horrific 2-for-13 shooting night against Kent State which netted him six points — has he scored below 13 points per game. Admittedly he has also been taking between 10 and 18 shots a night, so it'll adds up, but he's also making 80 percent of his free throws and getting there several times, so he's become a legitimate scorer and team leader in the home stretch of his college career.
Even more special has been the last six games, when the Cardinals needed him more than ever. They looked toast after a 2-7 start to the conference run, and Billy Taylor's job at BSU looked like a certainty to end. Since that 69-42 drubbing by OHIO, the Cardinals are 5-1, with Scaife providing 25.6 points a night. This includes a buzzer-beating 3-point bucket at Southeast Missouri State to avoid overtime, a 34-point outpouring against CMU and 30 points — nearly half the team's scoring — in a 65-62 win over WMU.
I really don't know far Scaife can carry the Cardinals into the MAC Tournament. I'm also not sure if this magical senior performance can save Taylor's job. But whichever team draws them to start the postseason should be concerned since because you're in the first round, you're already a flawed team, and another similar performance from Scaife and he just might end their season.