The win, CMU’s third straight, lifted it into a first-place tie in the MAC West with the Cardinals. Both teams are 10-7 in MAC play. The Chippewas are 17-13 overall, Ball State is 19-11.
CMU closes the regular season Friday (7 p.m.) at home against Western Michigan (12-18, 6-11). A win would give the Chippewas at least a share of the West title and could put them in the top four in the overall MAC standings, meaning they would get a bye to the quarterfinal round of the league tournament in Cleveland.
Ball State wraps up . . .
Last Saturday, Ball State had scored 61 points in the first half against Eastern Michigan on the way to posting the fifth-highest scoring game in school history (115).
But the Cardinals never found that stroke Tuesday. Their .365 field-goal percentage was only a sliver better than their previous low (.364) this season and one game after breaking school records with 18 3-point baskets and 39 attempts from the arc, Ball State was only 5-for-22 for a .227 percentage. Its season low is .222.
“There’s a savvy and experience (needed) in a game like this to block all that out,” Cardinals coach James Whitford said. “And for the first time, guys are thinking, ‘If we win this game, it means this, this and this.’
“It takes your focus away from what it really needs to be. … You have to lock in on the things that help you win the game. We weren’t successfully able to do that tonight.”
The Chippewas, meanwhile, managed to grind out a “must win,” much like they did in winning 76-74 at Toledo on Saturday, by digging deep and holding off a late charge from Ball State.
CMU made just 36.8 percent of its field goal attempts including 30.8 percent from 3-point range and committed just three turnovers, a season-low.
“When you look at us going on the road and only shooting 36 percent, 30 percent from 3, wow that’s something we’ve talked about before, Can we find a way to win?” CMU coach Keno Davis said. “To only have three turnovers in a game that was that physical is a credit to the work that these guys have put in on their ball skills and handling the ball, passing the ball, and also being able to play with contact.”
The Chippewas built a 13-point lead with just over five minutes to play before Ball State, needing a win to clinch the division crown, fought its way back to cut the lead to six, 57-51, with 3 minutes, 43 seconds remaining.
CMU dug in down the stretch, and DaRohn Scott – much as he did at Toledo three nights before – came up big, blocking a shot and then scoring on a putback with 1:58 left to put the Chippewas back up eight, 59-51.
Ball State twice trimmed CMU’s lead back to six in the final 22 seconds, but the clutch Rayson made all four of his free throw attempts in the waning seconds to salt it away.
Franko House scored 23 points, Sean Sellers had 11, and Bo Calhoun added 10 for Ball State.
Ball State held a slim 40-38 rebounding edge, but the Chippewas had 10 offensive boards and 14 of their points came on second chances. The Cardinals, who committed 12 turnovers, finished with six offensive rebounds.
Luke Meyer grabbed nine rebounds to lead CMU, while John Simons added eight. Calhoun had a team-high nine rebounds for Ball State, while House finished with six.
“Those guys inside, House and Calhoun, they can put big numbers on you,” Davis said. “I credit Luke Meyer, I credit DaRohn Scott, John Simons, Austin Stewart for everything that they had on the boards.
“When you look at (Meyer) getting nine rebounds in 27 minutes, that’s something we want to see for years to come.”
Rayshawn Simmons led the Chippewas with five assists, while Fowler had four. Neither committed a turnover.
Fowler briefly left the game early in the second half with an apparent wrist injury.
“We need him on the court because even when he’s not making the play, he’s getting us in our offense, he’s getting our team where we need to be,” Davis said. “We also had some guys step up in big roles tonight to be able to get a great road victory. Big plays by everybody.”
(Courtesy of Doug Zaleski, BSU Athletics and Andy Sneddon, CMU Athletics. MRO Edit)