Roundtree goes down, McKay steps up in men's basketball victory over Ball State

Senior guard Larry Austin talks to junior guard Kevin McKay on Jan. 8 in McGuirk Arena.

When senior guard Shawn Roundtree Jr. went down with a head injury, it appeared the Central Michigan men’s basketball team might be run out of the gym by the Ball State Cardinals.

Kevin McKay had other ideas.

The junior guard had arguably the best performance of his career. He led all scorers with 17 points and ripped down a whopping 19 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.

The Cardinals (14-13, 5-9 Mid-American Conference) led by as many as 14 in the second half, but the Chippewas (19-8, 8-6) clambered back to capture a 64-57 win.

The opening minutes were ugly for both teams — CMU and BSU had four turnovers apiece in the first three minutes of the game. The Cardinals were able to convert their steals into easy fast-break layups, while CMU struggled to put the ball in the basket. 

Roundtree, hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, which was followed by a triple from sophomore guard Matt Beachler with 14:21 to play in the first half. Beachler’s shot gave the Chippewas an 8-7 lead, and CMU showed all signs of catching fire from deep.

Roundtree was then hit on the head during a loose ball, and he was removed for the rest of the game.

The Cardinals took advantage of Roundtree's absence and snuffed out any chance of a CMU run in the first half.

BSU outscored the Chippewas 27-15 over the remainder of the first half to take a 34-23 lead at the break. 

The Cardinals’ big men went to work in the post on CMU’s forwards and dominated inside, scoring 20 points in the paint by halftime.

On the other end of the court, CMU’s ball movement was stifled by BSU’s defense. Roundtree and senior guard Larry Austin, Jr. average a combined 33.6 points per game. With Roundtree's injury, the two combined for just seven points by halftime.

Within the first six minutes of second half, the Chippewas found their rythm. 

A steal by McKay turned into a 3-pointer by junior guard Dallas Morgan closed the gap to seven, and a Beachler layup made the score 40-35 with 14:03 to play. 

However, CMU got sloppy again. A pair of turnovers allowed BSU to reclaim a double-digit lead.

The Chippewas dug in their heels and came roaring back to tie the game at 47 after McKay knocked down two free throws with 8:17 remaining.

BSU went on a quick 8-2 run to take a 55-49 lead, but CMU snatched its first lead since 8-7 after finishing second-chance opportunities on three consecutive offensive possessions.

The lead grew to 60-55 on a powerful Austin drive to the basket. 

The Chippewas then allowed a layup to BSU’s Trey Moses, but from that point forward, they blanked the Cardinals down the stretch.

Large contributors for the Chippewas were Austin and Morgan, who scored 16 and 14, respectively.

Tahjai Teague led BSU with 12 points on the afternoon, and Tayler Persons added 11 more.

Next up for the Chippewas is in-state rival Eastern Michigan (13-14, 7-7)., who eked out a 77-76 overtime win over Western Michigan as CMU finished off the Cardinals.

CMU held on for a 86-82 win over EMU in their Jan. 29 contest at McGuirk Arena. The Eagles will seek revenge when the Chippewas pay them a visit on Feb. 26 for a 7 p.m. game at the EMU Concovation Center.