BY MICK TIDROW | Play-by-Play Voice of Ball State Men’s Basketball on Sports Link Radio on 91.3 WCRD
Another in-state rivalry takes center stage for Ball State Men’s Basketball, this time against IUPUI Saturday afternoon inside Worthen Arena.
With back-to-back wins for the first time this season, the Cardinals attempt to pile on their first winning streak of the year. After defeating Indiana State on the road at the Hulman Center and Oakland City at home, Ball State can move to .500 on the season for the first time.
However, they match up against an IUPUI Jaguars team that has won four of the last five meetings played between the two teams, including a 73-62 win in Muncie a year ago.
IUPUI comes in with a record of 2-3 for the third straight season under Head Coach Jason Gardner. In each of the first three seasons under his direction, the team has been unable to with the sixth game of the season, sending the Jaguars to a losing record in all three.
However, Gardner has improved the win total of IUPUI every year since he has been at the helm. This includes a pair of six-win seasons before he arrived in Indianapolis.
Ball State leads the all-time series 7-5, with a slight edge in games played in Muncie at 3-2.
1. Indiana Through and Through
When Ball State and IUPUI meet Saturday, they are set to compile a heavy list of players
from the state of Indiana on their respective rosters. The Cardinals currently have the most players from the Hoosier state on their roster in Division I with 10 players, including eight former Indiana All-Stars.
IUPUI continues to recruit heavily in its home state with the second most Indiana players in the county with nine.
Perhaps the biggest name from Indiana on the Jaguars roster is Ron Patterson. The now 24-year-old senior is in his second season at IUPUI. It took a venture to Brewster Academy for postgraduate prep school and two years at Syracuse before the Indiana product came home.
2. Balanced Scoring Attack
In the last two games specifically, Ball State has pressured defenses with a variety of scoring options. It has not just been the duo of Tayler Persons and Tahjai Teague creating shots for the Cardinals, but a host of players getting to the rim.
Persons and Teague are the only two averaging double-digits each game, 16 and 10 points, respectively, but five different players have posted 10 or more points in each game the past two. It has allowed the Cardinals offense to bolster and create looks for others.
Against Oakland City Tuesday, Kyle Mallers, Sean Sellers, and Ishmael El-Amin chipped in double-digit point performances. Mallers, who has earned a starting role in his sophomore season, has jumped up 10 points per game from a year ago and has hit 47 percent of his shots.
Sellers, who has started all but one game in his senior season, is 5-11 in the past two games from the three-point line, opening up the offense.
3. Newcomers Set to Flourish
Never has it been easy to know exactly how a newcomer is going to perform, especially at the Division I level. However, what we have seen from several players set to meet on the hardwood Saturday has been nothing but positive.
For the Jaguars, freshman Jaylen Minnett from Terre Haute, Indiana averages eight points per game. Coming off the bench, Minnett has shot his way to a 45 percent mark, including 50 percent from deep. It comes as no surprise the former Indiana All-Star has filled a role so quickly. Minnett dropped 25 points per game as a senior in high school.
On the Ball State side, the newcomer impact has already been felt drastically. Jontrell Walker, a transfer from Incarnate Word, has earned himself two straight starts after beginning the season as one of the first men off the bench. The junior averages nine points per game and helped provide a spark against Indiana State in the 93-85 road win last week.
Freshmen Zach Gunn and El-Amin have made their presence felt as well. Gunn has been automatic from the free-throw line, shooting 90 percent while scoring eight points a game. El-Amin has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the Ball State roster at 1.5 to 1.
The future is bright for both teams with breakout players waiting (but still currently performing at a high level) in the wings.
4. Let’s Start Fast, Shall We?
Slow starts hampered Ball State early in the season, but the past two games the Cardinals offense has posted 40 or more points in the first 20 minutes.
As a whole this season, the Cardinals have been outscored 292-256 in the first half of games. IUPUI on the other hand, has kept it much closer in the opening half of play, scoring three less points total than their opponents (160-157).
A quick start against Indiana State last week helped open the door for an 18-point lead during the game for Ball State. The Cardinals have shown they can play up-tempo in a three guard system several times this season. IUPUI has not scored above 80 points in a game all season, while Ball State has the past three games, and has done so four total times this season.
We are in for a fast one inside Worthen Arena.