By: Connor Onion | @Conion22
Play-by-play voice on SL Radio on WCRD
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Ball State opens its Mid-American Conference slate Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as the Toledo Rockets infiltrate Worthen Arena.
Here’s what to watch for.
Cardinals best start in 23 years
In the first two years of James Whitford’s tenure as head coach, Ball State collected a combined 12 wins. Year three has seen vast improvements and it has shown in the win column as the Cardinals won nine non-conference games for the first time since the 1992-93 season. The 1988-89 team holds the school record with 10 wins before MAC play.
Much of the success the Cardinals have experienced deals with their newfound depth. Currently, Ball State has nine players averaging between 17 and 27 minutes per game. Ryan Weber leads with team with 27 minutes per game.
A season ago, Ball State was heavily reliant on their starters to carry them as 5 players averaged 28+ minutes. The rotation may tighten up as conference play arrives, but the various contributions up and down the bench have allowed Ball State to outscore 11 of their 13 opponents in bench points this season.
Defense is the Staple
If you’ve ever seen the movie Anchorman you’re familiar with the line, “LOUD NOISES!” The term is very applicable to a typical Ball State practice. From day one of the new season Coach Whitford has preached, “if you don’t communicate defensively, you don’t play.”
From the several practices I have witnessed, it is a much louder gym this year than the past two.
The enhancement in communication and defending as a team has paid dividends. In wins, the Cardinals are allowing a stifling 58 points per game. Only once in a winning effort has Ball State allowed more than 70 points.
No Juice, No Problem
Toledo had many skeptics coming in to the year. What would the Rockets do with out their four-year point guard Juice Brown who graduated after last season? More importantly, how would they produce with out their top three scorers in Brown, J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond all departing?
Cue Jonathan Williams and Nathan Boothe. The duo is 1st and 2nd in the MAC, respectively, as far as scoring is concerned. Williams averages just less than 20 points per game, while Boothe does it all with averages of 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.