Welcome to conference play in the MAC, where anything can happen and the unexpected becomes reality. Two teams with weak non-conference resumes met in Muncie on Wednesday night, and while most expected a close game and a likely Toledo win, the script was flipped in a big way.
Ryan Weber had a career game for Ball State, scoring a season high 21 points as the Cardinals thrashed Toledo 87-69. Even more impressively, the Cardinals did it without Sean Sellers, who was out with a leg injury. Four other Cardinals scored in double figures including Francis Kiapway, who looked brilliant on the floor scoring 16.
Three-point shooting was the key for Ball State, surprisingly. The Cardinals came into the game ranked 11th in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage, hitting 33 percent of their deep shots. Against Toledo the Cardinals shot 43 percent, hitting 13-30 attempts from beyond the arc. Weber had four, Kiapway had three, and even Bo Calhoun, Jeremiah Davis and Jeremie Tyler got in on the act, hitting two each.
Even though this game ended up being a blowout, the contest was close for 32 of the 40 minutes. Ball State led by ten at halftime, but Toledo stormed back to get the lead down to 2 at 45-43 after two Stuckey Mosely free throws. The Cardinals went on a 6-0 run, but eventually the Rockets brought the lead back to four at 53-49. A Nathan Boothe 3-pointer gave the Rockets some life after another 6-0 put the Cardinals back up ten.
But then a four-minute scoring drought did the Rockets in. Ball State capitalized on Toledo's offensive woes, as Davis and Weber made back-to-back threes as a part of a 10-0 run putting the Cardinals up 17 at 71-54. Toledo never threatened again, and the Cardinals walked away with a huge victory.
Mosely led the way for the Rockets with 17 points on 4-11 shooting. Boothe got his, scoring 16 points but only grabbed 6 rebounds, well below his average of 9 per game. Jonathan Williams was the only other Rocket to really do anything, chipping in 14 points on 5-12 shooting.
This has to be an eye-opener for Toledo. The Rockets were outplayed and out-hustled by Ball State on both ends of the floor. Their best win in the non-conference schedule was a buzzer-beater at Green Bay, so maybe they were a bit overrated coming into this game. But, one game does not make a season, and the Rockets will bounce back.
The win validated Ball State's record so far this season, at least a little bit. The Cardinals played a weak non-conference schedule and their record was a bit inflated coming into MAC play. But this win shows they aren't a fluke and will likely be contenders come March. James Whitford has done a remarkable job so far this season - taking a team that won 7 games total last season and guiding them to 10 in the first week of January. It's still a long season, but the Cardinals look well on their way towards being a respectable team in the conference.
Ball State will travel to Athens on Saturday looking to double their conference win total against Ohio. Toledo will have to regroup, but luckily they travel to lowly Miami for a Saturday afternoon contest. Both games will be streamed on ESPN3.
|Points||R. Weber (21)||S. Mosely (17)|
|Rebounds||Two tied (7)||N. Boothe (6)|
|Assists||N. Smith (7)||N. Rogers (4)|
|Blocks||Five tied (1)||Three tied (3)|
|Steals||N. Smith (6)||S. Mosely (2)|