Men's basketball hopes to toughen up in anticipation of Akron rematch

Senior guard Larry Austin makes his way down the court on Jan. 19 in McGuirk Arena.

In a game where foul calls were hard to come by, Central Michigan coach Keno Davis said Ball State showed more toughness and resilience throughout the Mid-American Conference showdown.

The Cardinals (11-7, 2-3 MAC) used a higher level of physicality to their advantage in an 83-72 win over the Chippewas (14-4, 3-2 MAC) on Jan. 19 at McGuirk Arena.

Davis' group has shot more than 30 free throws in a game on multiple occasions during the 2018-19 campaign. On Saturday, however, CMU only managed to take 15 from the charity stripe – a direct reflection to fouls called.

CMU ranks fifth in the nation with an average of 27.6 free throw attempts per game but struggled to get to the line against the Cardinals, shooting 11-of-15.

“I didn’t feel that was a lack of taking it to the basket, it’s just that sometimes games are called differently, and we have to be able to react to it," Davis said.

Of CMU's 15 free throws, senior guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. accounted for eight attempts. He didn't miss.

Davis acknowledged that outside of TCU, Ball State was as physical as any team the Chippewas have faced this season. Despite that, Davis felt the Cardinals were able to get into the lane and control the paint with too much ease. 

“They took it to the basket, whether it was in the post or on the drives, and consistently did that,” Davis said. “It felt like we got too stretched out defensively in the halfcourt.” 

Junior forward Rob Montgomery put together a strong, physical performance against the Cardinals, collecting 19 points and seven rebounds in the loss. 

“I was just playing hard and taking what the defense was giving me,” Montgomery said. “I tried not forcing too much, just doing what my teammates needed me to do out there.” 

Central Michigan will need another tough outing from Montgomery along with other cast members if they hope to bounce back in their next game. 

The Chippewas travel to Akron (10-8, 2-3 MAC) for a matchup on Jan. 22 against a team seeking revenge after a layup by senior guard Larry Austin Jr. sent the Zips home with an 88-86 loss in their MAC opener at McGuirk Arena two weeks ago. 

“It’s gonna be a physical game,” Davis said. “I think it’s an opportunity, when you see a team for the second time, to make some adjustments.” 

Although Davis said some aspects need to be refined before the Chippewas take on Akron, the team recognizes that in order to stave off the vengeful Zips, it must remain disciplined and stick to what has got them to a 14-4 start to the season. 

“We’ll have to control our energy, our effort, and just stay together,” Roundtree said. “They’re gonna be hungry to beat us.”