Western Michigan (15-7) at Ball State (8-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthen Arena (11,500) -- Muncie, Indiana. Television: SportsTime Ohio. Home Record: WMU 8-1, BSU 5-7. Away Record: WMU 5-6, BSU 3-6. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 7-2, BSU 2-7. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 59-57.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos look for their eighth win in a row as they visit Worthen Arena for a Mid-American Conference bout against the Ball State Cardinals.
WMU holds a narrow, 59-57, all-time series lead versus Ball State, but the Cardinals are 35-20 in their history against the Broncos at home. The teams split two regular-season meetings last season with the home team coming out on top each time
Since falling to Akron and Ohio in its first two MAC games this season, WMU has reeled off seven consecutive victories with the most previous coming in the form of an 82-76 win over Kent State on Wednesday. The hot streak has lifted the Broncos to a 15-7 overall record and a first-place, 7-2 standing in the West Division. Shayne Whittington has emerged as an interior force, pacing the team with 12.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per outing. Nate Hutcheson (11.2 ppg), Darius Paul (10.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), and Brandon Pokley (8.9 ppg) have all made significant contributions to the team's recent wave of success. Although coach Steve Hawkins's squad is fifth in the MAC in scoring at 67.6 ppg, its true strength is a stifling defensive effort that is limiting the opposition to 62.9 ppg.
Whittington notched a double-double of 21 points and 13 boards in the victory over KSU as enjoyed a 35-27 edge in the rebounding battle and outscored the Golden Flashes, 28-16, in the paint. Whittington is one of only three players in the MAC with seven or more double-doubles this season. Brown provided a huge lift off the bench with 22 points, while Hutcheson chipped in 15 points. Brown is averaging 10.8 points per game since returning to the line-up in the game at Akron. Hutcheson could have a very memorable day on Saturday, as he needs just 15 points to reach 1,000 for his career. The collective effort has helped WMU win seven straight MAC games in one season for the first time since the 1975-76 season, when the Broncos opened the conference slate 10-0.
The Cardinals suffered their seventh loss in eight games on Wednesday, falling 69-42 to Ohio at home to drop to an 8-13 overall record. Although it lost, Ball State still owns a .500 record at Worthen Arena on the season. Coach Billy Taylor's squad relies on the trio of Jauwan Scaife, Jesse Berry, and Majok Majok for much of its offensive production. Scaife and Berry are first (13.2) and second (12.4) on the team in scoring, respectively. Majok is one of 15 players nationally with a double-double average, posting 12.2 points and 10.3 boards per game.
Ball State's loss to Ohio came without center Zach Fields and forward Tyler Koch, who were both unavailable due to injuries. Scaife scored 18 points and Matt Kamieniecki had nine rebounds for Ball State in the loss, but Berry wet 1- of-10 from the floor and Majok just 1-of-4 as they combined to produce just seven points and the same number of turnovers. Ball State's slide comes from struggles on both ends of the floor, as it ranks ninth in the MAC in both scoring offense (62.7) and only one slot higher in scoring defense (67.4).
The Cardinals will be in serious trouble if Koch and Fields are unable to play once again, as WMU's big men are the class of the conference. Both are listed as questionable, which does not bode well for the struggling Ball State squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 77, Ball State 64
02/09 10:38:22 ET