Not many in attendance or outside the friendly confines of McGuirk arena likely predicted an outcome like what was witnessed on Wednesday night when Ball State traveled to take on Central Michigan in a test of Mid-American Conference Titans.
The top two teams in the MAC over the last several seasons met once again to determine who would gain sole ownership of the conference lead as they make their way into the meat of the conference schedule and many predictions leading into the contest had the Ball State Cardinals as the favorite to do just that over the home team Central Michigan Chippewas.
Ball State has enjoyed several impressive wins over non-conference foes Xavier, New Mexico and Butler, while holding their own in games against Wisconsin and Cincinnati.
The results could not have been further from the pundit predictions.
After the first few minutes, in which both teams seemed to battle in a fairly evenhanded fashion, CMU began to pull away and do so with authority.
The Chippewas got things going with increased defensive pressure that netted several unforced errors by Ball State and Chippewa steals got things going for the Maroon and Gold, who played to a sizable crowd that enjoyed every moment of Chippewa dominance. The Chippewas forced the Cardinals to play at a pace they were clearly uncomfortable playing and continued to force the issue on each ensuing possession.
Things never got close once CMU pulled away and the Chippewas managed to secure the win by playing with an impressive sense of urgency rarely seen by teams maintaining such a large lead so deep into regulation.
First year women’s basketball coach, Heather Osterle, has the Chippewas playing for their third MAC championship in as many years and their championship pedigree showed. The Chippewas did not let their foot off the gas until the final horn sounded, emphasizing the point that they are playing for March and not the end of regulation. The Chippewas closed the game with a convincing 66-39 win that is sure to put the rest of the MAC on notice that fresh faces in the lineup and head coach position have not slowed CMU.
CMU’s desire to build on and improve recent success was evident and on full display as they hope to take some momentum into another tough conference matchup against in-state rival, Western Michigan, on the road in Kalamazoo this Saturday.