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A Tilt for the Top Spot in the MAC

BY MICK TIDROW | Analyst for the Ball State Radio Network

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Northern Illinois is set to trot out the third best scoring offense in the nation when the Huskies meet up Saturday with Ball State.

In an afternoon full of festivities honoring 25 years in Worthen Arena, the Cardinals welcome a power-packed offense led by Ally Lehman of Northern Illinois.

Both teams enter the game with a 7-1 Mid-American Conference record, with the Cardinals owning the MAC’s longest current win streak at four games. During the streak, the Cardinals have scored at least 75 points in every game.

Most recently, Ball State walked into Alumni Center in Buffalo and convincingly won 89-75 behind the career high 35 points from Moriah Monaco.

Each MAC opponent has provided its own challenges and Northern Illinois is no exception.


Renee Bennett scored 24 points on the road vs. Buffalo.

Renee Bennett scored 24 points on the road vs. Buffalo.

What to Watch for Saturday:

  1. How does each team plan to stop the others leading scorers? 

With only one exception in MAC play for Northern Illinois, the Huskies’ offense is on a roll behind Lehman and Courtney Woods. Lehman garners a majority of the attention, deservingly so, but it is Woods who leads the team with over 17 points per game.

At 15.5 points per game, Lehman is the heart and soul of the offense.

Averaging 6.5 assists per game, the senior guard is a triple-double threat night in and night out, grabbing 10 rebounds per game. Paired with Woods who is snagging five on the glass a night, and it proves to be a tough guard matchup for the Cardinals.

On the other end, Northern Illinois has struggled to stop the opponents leading scorers.

Ball State has had no issue with Monaco and Renee Bennett getting their fair share of buckets. The six-foot five Bennett is nearly averaging a double-double this year at 17 points and eight rebounds per game. Monaco has boosted her production in recent games, posting 16 points a night on 40 percent from distance.


2. Battle of the boards: Who wins?

Head Coach Brady Sallee stresses the importance of rebounds each game, but the effectiveness was on display first hand against Buffalo.

The Bulls were eighth in the nation with 19 offensive rebounds per game entering Wednesday’s contest. The Cardinals held Buffalo to just 14, which is also the margin of victory for Ball State in the game.

Northern Illinois poses problems in the paint, grabbing 43 boards per game compared to Ball State’s 41.

Another impressive night on the glass proves to be a difference maker in this one.


3. Freebies at the line

northernillinoisAn underrated part of what Northern Illinois is able to do is get to the free throw line. They have been deadly at the charity stripe this season, shooting 79 percent, fourth in the nation. This includes seventh in the country in made free throws (327).

Mikayla Voigt has been the star from the line, posting a free throw percentage of 94 percent. Ball State is shooting 67 percent from the line, good for seventh in the MAC.

It is two high-octane offense batting head-to-head in a showdown to decide who walks away with the best record in the MAC after Saturday. Two of the MAC’s best ready for a tough one. Fasten your seatbelts, this will be a good one.

Northern Illinois notes: 

  • All time series record: Ball State leads 33-18, including 16-7 in Muncie.
  • First time in team history they have started 7-1 in MAC play.
  • Have scored 77 points or less in just two of 19 contests.
  • 7-0 when they score 90 or more points.
  • Third ranked scoring offense in the NCAA at 88.5 points per game. Trails Baylor by 2.2
  • 6-3 on the road this season.
  • Have scored at least 90 points eight times.
  • Fourth nationally in team free throw percentage at a clip of 79.6.

Ball State notes: 

  • 12-3 when holding opponents under 70 points.
  • Have won 8 of the last nine contests.
  • Moriah Monaco is coming off a career high 35 points at Buffalo on Wednesday.
  • Carmen Grande is fourth in the nation in assists per game at 7.7.
  • Team leads the MAC in scoring margin (+11.9), field goal percentage (.448), blocked shots and assists.

 

About Mick Tidrow (36 Articles)
Play-by-Play and color broadcaster for Ball State Sports Link and WCRD 91.3 FM. Digital Sports Producer and writer.

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