Ball State (2-6) at Southern Illinois (2-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 21, 3:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SIU Arena (8,339) -- Carbondale, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: BSU 2-2, SIU 1-2. Away Record: BSU 0-4, SIU 0-4. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, SIU 1-2. Conference Record: BSU 0-0, SIU 0-0. Series Record: SIU leads, 7-5.
GAME NOTES: Two teams headed in the wrong direction will attempt to turn it around on Saturday, as the Ball State Cardinals visit the Southern Illinois Salukis at SIU Arena in non-conference action.
This is the second part of a three-game road trip for Ball State. The first leg of its journey did not end well. The Cardinals were trampled, 91-53, at the Bradley Center by Marquette on Tuesday for their fifth straight loss. Ball State is now 2-6 overall and winless in four tries on the road. The Cardinals will wrap up the string of road games next Monday against James Madison.
Southern Illinois was in action on Tuesday and also fell short, with a 73-65 setback against Murray State. The defeat was the fourth straight for the Salukis, who are a paltry 2-8 overall. They have only won once in three chances at SIU Arena, where they will be again on Monday against SIU Edwardsville.
Randy Davis scored 19 points to lift Ball State over Southern Illinois, 71-62, when they last met up during the 2011-12 season. Despite the loss, the Salukis still lead the all-time series, 7-5.
It was clear that Ball State was out of its element against Marquette. The Cardinals turned the ball over 23 times and connected on just 38 percent of their field-goal tries in the loss. Zavier Turner scored a game-high 16 points for Southern Illinois but he also had the most turnovers (six) in the contest.
Even at home the Cardinals have struggled to put together strong efforts offensively. They are only lighting up the scoreboard at a pace of 64.8 points per game, while shooting at just 40 percent from the floor. Meanwhile their foes have been sinking shots at a much better rate (.486). Turner (13.8 ppg, 4 apg) is the primary ball handler and the top scorer. The 5-foot-9 guard is just a freshman, but has been utilized heavily, as the only player averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Jesse Berry (11.6 ppg) and Chris Bond (10.1 ppg) are decent scorers, though neither is overly efficient. Majok Majok (8.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg) gives the team a boost on the glass.
The final score of Southern Illinois' matchup with Murray State was not indicative of how close the contest was. The Salukis did trail by only three points at halftime, but they fell behind by as many as 16 points in the final 20 minutes. Desmar Jackson did finish with a game-high 28 points in the losing effort.
Jackson (21.1 ppg) has been a lone bright spot during an otherwise miserable season for Southern Illinois. The 6-foot-5 guard is the leading scorer by a wide margin and is one of 36 players in the country scoring at least 20 points per game. Anthony Beane (12.7 ppg) and Jalen Pendleton (10.6 ppg) are the only other players scoring in double figures. In fact no one else on the team is putting in more than six points per game. Neither player was much help against Murray State, as Beane had 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting and Pendleton had nine points. Lacking balance has led to just a 69.5 points per game scoring averaging for the Salukis.
In a matchup of two struggling offensive squads, having a scorer like Jackson and homecourt advantage will give Southern Illinois the edge it needs to earn a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Illinois 68, Ball State 63
12/21 11:16:30 ET