Ball State loses in overtime again this time to Western Michigan

Cardinals the worst team in Mid American Conference at 4-22

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (sports) - After leading much of the game, Ball State lost in overtime to Western Michigan 88-81 on Wednesday, virtually guaranteed last place in the Mid American Conference.

"We just cannot finish a game,: said senior Jesse Berry who scored 17 points, and already has 1,000 career points.

Ball State Coach James Whitford did noit anticipate his first year as a head coach be such a disaster with six or more of the last dozen games having the Cardinals lead but then lose in the end.

Whitford insisted the team was getting better, pointing to the triple overtime loss at Central Michigan last week. Both of those teams lead the MAC and Ball State played them to the end, he said.

But the 4-22 record with a 1-14 conference mark has fans and players frustrated and disappointed after hopes of a new coach would bring the program back for the last two seasons at 15-15.

It's a different coach, some fans said, but an even worse result. And only 2,590 fans were on hand Wednesday and the last home game Saturday, that is Senior Day, will probably have about the same.

Berry said it seemed the team could not hold onto the ball as turnovers and fouls contributed to the Broncos going on a 13-6 run in overtime after a 75-75 tie at the end of regulations.

Actually, Ball State led the entire game, but allowed Bronco center Shayne Whittington continue to score who led with 28 points and forward Connar Tava who stepped up in overtime and contributed 23 points. Guard David Brown added 25 more for the Western Michigan win.

Freshman guard Zavier Turner led Ball State with 20 points and Berry had 17 with fellow senior forward Chris Bond with 14. Freshman Mading Thok came off the bench and scored 14 like the Bowling Green game where he also scored double figures.

Thok thought the team could do better and win, adding it was disappointing to see loss after loss.

Ball State shot an incredible 51 percent in the first half but only 44 percent in the second half. And the Cardinals had twice as many turnovers as the Broncos turned on the scoring in overtime, shooting 57 percent to the Cardinals 33 percent.

Broncos coach Steve Hawkins did not expect anything less than a dogfight with the Cardinals. He has been head coach at Western Michigan for 11 years.

"We did not play well and we did not have great energy," said Hawkins.

Hawkins said his team allowed Ball State to shoot too much and did not score well either as the game ended in a tie.

But Tava poured on points in overtime, giving the Broncos that 13-6 edge for the win.

Ball State has three more games with Central Michigan on Saturday; Eastern Michigan on March 4 and Northern Illinois on March 8. The conference tournament begins March 11.