BY JACK KIZER| Ball State Sports Link
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Two impressive road wins leave Ball State in a prime position leading up to the final four games of the regular season. Every game is vital for the Cardinals, however, if they hope to secure a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Two games this week against a pair of foes Ball State has beaten before look to be little bit different this time around.
Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan: February 21st, 7pm
|Eastern Michigan Team Stats||Ball State Team Stats|
|PPG: 78.2||PPG: 79.9|
|PA: 73.1||PA: 75.3|
|FG%: 45%||FG%: 47%|
|3FG%: 33% (161-485)||3FG%: 38% (242-640)|
|FT%: 73% (434-593)||FT%: 73% (404-555)|
|RPG: 36.5 (Margin +0.3)||RPG: 38.3 (Margin: +3.0)|
|APG: 13.6||APG: 16.1|
|TOPG: 12.6 (Margin +4.5)||TOPG: 15.5 (Margin -2.2)|
|SPG: 10.1||SPG: 6.3|
|BPG: 4.6||BPG: 3.6|
By the numbers, Tuesday’s meeting with Eastern Michigan holds the highest probability for a Ball State win on the Cardinals’ remaining schedule.
Leading up to the game Jan. 24 against Ball State, the Eagles were 4-2 in the MAC and backing up the preseason polls which placed them at the top of the Western Division. Since then, Eastern has collapsed winning just once in its last seven games.
The match-up four weeks ago was controlled by the Cardinals the entire way. Ball State led by eight at halftime and played arguably their best defensive stint of the entire season. Eastern Michigan shot just 31 percent from the field and committed nine turnovers.
Leading by as much as 16 in the second frame, Ball State dominated the glass with a plus-eight rebounding margin and scorched the Eagles’ patented 2-3 zone, forcing them to switch to man-to-man defense at the end of the game…a very rare move for Eastern.
In Ypsilanti, Franko House and Trey Moses combined for 20 rebounds and were the keys to breaking down the Eagles’ defense with their inside play.
Currently, Ball State sits at 8-6 in the conference atop the MAC West, while Eastern Michigan is in dead last at 5-9. If the Eagles hope to secure a tough road victory, they will have to do what they do best, which is force turnovers.
The Eagles force 17 per game with the length and aggressiveness of their zone. Ball State committed 19 in the first match-up, which helped keep Eastern in the game. When the Cardinals are cold from deep and turning the basketball over, they usually find themselves down quickly.
The Eagles also have to get James Thompson going.
Thompson finished with six points and 11 rebounds, but had four points and nine rebounds in the first half last time out against Ball State. He’s arguably the most talented big-man in the conference and has the ability to cause problems on both ends.
If the Cardinals limit Thompson again and take care of the basketball, they have a tremendous opportunity to move to 9-6 in the Mid-American Conference.
Ball State @ Western Michigan: February 25th, 2pm
|Western Michigan Team Stats||Ball State Team Stats|
|PPG: 76.5||PPG: 79.9|
|PA: 78.2||PA: 75.3|
|FG%: 45%||FG%: 47%|
|3FG%: 37% (166-455)||3FG%: 38% (242-640)|
|FT%: 71% (406-571)||FT%: 73% (404-555)|
|RPG: 34.9 (Margin +2.1)||RPG: 38.3 (Margin: +3.0)|
|APG: 13.1||APG: 16.1|
|TOPG: 12.7 (Margin +0.9)||TOPG: 15.5 (Margin -2.2)|
|SPG: 6.0||SPG: 6.3|
|BPG: 2.6||BPG: 3.6|
Ball State’s second game this week comes on the road against a Western Michigan squad it conquered after the win over Eastern Michigan.
At the time, the Broncos were 2-5 in the conference, but have gone on to win five of their last six games and four in a row.
In that contest, Ball State led 44-34 at halftime behind 14 early points from Tayler Persons. Persons went on to score 24 points and the team as a whole shot 59 percent from the field.
The offense rolled, but Western Michigan’s did as well, totaling 44 second half points behind 19 from Thomas Wilder. The spectacular shooting and energy from the largest crowd of the season were enough to help Ball State hold on 84-78.
Things have definitely changed for the Broncos since then. In its recent stretch, WMU is now 7-7 in the MAC West, average more points per game, shoot better from deep and the free throw line and also rebound more effectively.
Led by Wilder, Western Michigan is averaging over 81 points per game on its current win streak and has won by eight-or-more in all four of those games.
A shift in Western’s play proves a challenging game in January for Ball State won’t be as easy this time around.