BY CONNOR ONION | Radio Voice of Ball State Basketball on WCRD 91.3 FM
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Top Scoring Backcourt
Central Michigan (11-6, 1-3) guards Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson have taken the Mid-American Conference – and nation – by storm this season.
The backcourt duo has teamed up for 29 and 19 points per game respectively, the top for any pair in college basketball.
Keene alone leads the nation in points per game and has scored 30+ points in 10 of the 17 games the Chippewas have played.
Keene, the former teammate of Ball State’s Ryan Weber at Youngstown State, sat out last year due to transfer rules, but has filled a void at point guard after all-league player Chris Folwer graduated after last season.
Keene is second in the conference in assists.
Don’t forget about Rayson.
The diminutive, 5-foot-9 guard is third in MAC scoring at 19 per contest. Over the last three games, he leads Central Michigan with 28 points per night.
Ball State is no stranger to prolific scoring nights from the senior. As a freshman, Rayson scored 30 points, including the last 12, in a 3OT win over the Cardinals.
Either player can go off. Sometimes both oblige.
“These are the two best one-on-one players in our league,” Ball State Head Coach James Whitford said.
Conference play has been a different story.
Franko House has averaged 15 points per outing and has tallied two of his three double-doubles on the season. His latest came in a 15-point win against Buffalo on Saturday when he scored 13 points and hauled in 10 boards.
After an 0-2 start in MAC play, House couldn’t have picked a better time to revivify his productivity.
“Franko only has one gear,” Whitford said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s playing Tipton or Muncie Central, he wants to win.”
Recent Series History
After Ball State dominated Central Michigan for much of the 1990s and 2000s, a true rivalry has evolved between the two MAC West contestants.
In the past four seasons, the teams have split their decisions four apiece. Four of those eight games have been especially significant.
A triple overtime affair in 2014 helped pull Central Michigan out of last place in the MAC, a year in which Ball State finished in the doldrums at 2-16. Central finished one spot better in 11th.
Fast-forward a year.
A young Ball State squad opened conference play with a surprising road win against Eastern Michigan.
Next up: An 11-1 Central Michigan team many picked to win the conference. Ball State dispatched the Chips 83-65, sending shockwaves through the conference.
Both teams went in different directions after that game – Ball State lost 17 straight and Central Michigan won the regular season title – but it foreshadowed the budding success of Ball State.
The two matchups in 2015-16 provided more intrigue.
Ball State went on the road in February and became only the second team in the past two seasons to beat Central Michigan in their gym. Also, the win placed Ball State in first place in the MAC West, one game over Central Michigan.
In the home finale on March 1, Ball State needed a win to clinch the West outright.
Thanks to 20 points from Chris Fowler and 18 from Braylon Rayson, Central Michigan spoiled the impending celebration at Worthen Arena.
Nonetheless, Ball State had a second chance to clinch outright in their season finale against Northern Illinois. Ball State fell by 12, but hung on to share the MAC West title via a Central Michigan loss in overtime to Western Michigan.
What might this year hold?
Out of the Shadows: Season 4, Episode 2