Ball State (2-3) at Butler (4-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: MyIndy-TV23. Home Record: Ball State 2-2, Butler 2-0. Away Record: Ball State 0-1, Butler 0-1. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0, Butler 2-1. Conference Record: Ball State 0-0, Butler 0-0. Series Record: Butler leads, 65-38.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals will try avoid their third straight loss on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to take on the Butler Bulldogs.
Ball State's season got off to a solid start with wins over Grambling State (78-51) and Wofford (66-61), but things have gone south since as the Cardinals dropped home tilts against Indiana State (68-48) and Cleveland State (69-63), with a 101-53 road defeat versus No. 1 Indiana sandwiched in between.
Butler's early slate has been highlighted by a run to the championship game in the Maui Invitational, where it knocked off Marquette (72-71) and North Carolina (82-71) before losing to Illinois in the title tilt, 78-61. The Bulldogs recovered in their return home with a convincing 97-73 win over Hanover on Tuesday night.
These two central Indiana foes have a storied history against one another, with Butler holding to a convincing 65-38 lead in the all-time series. The Bulldogs had won seven in a row in the series before the Cardinals won last year, 58-55.
Not much has gone right for Ball State through five games, as it is shooting a significantly lower percentage from the floor (.382) than its opponents (.445), which has resulted in a minus-8.4 scoring margin. Things were looking up midway through the second half against Cleveland State when it held a seven-point lead, but it lost control of the game after allowing the Vikings to go on a 18-2 run. The Cardinals made just 19 field goals on the night to go along with 19 turnovers. Making nearly half of those buckets was Jesse Berry, who shot 8-of-16 from the field en route to a career-high 28 points. The performance managed to catapult the junior guard up to become the team's top scorer (14.4 ppg), although he is still making just 38.3 percent of his field goal attempts. Majok Majok has been one of the best forwards in the Mid- American Conference with 13.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg, and Jauwan Scaife rounds out the Cardinals' double-digit scorers with 10.6 ppg, albeit on a dreadful 30.2 percent from the floor.
Butler is shooting an impressive 45.6 percent from the field on the young season thanks in large part to its 97-point outburst in the win over Hanover in which it shot 35-of-59 from the floor (including 9-of-18 from three-point range). All five starters scored at least 10 points for the Bulldogs, led by junior forward Khyle Marshall and senior guard Rotnei Clarke with 19 points apiece. Andrew Smith netted 13 points and blocked a pair of shots, Kellen Dunham chipped in 12 points, and Roosevelt Jones tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals. On the season, Clarke (18.5 ppg) has been lights-out from beyond the arc, making 25 three-pointers (tied for third in the nation) at a 44.6 percent clip. Marshall puts up 13.7 ppg on nearly 55 percent shooting and also grabs a team-best 6.3 rpg. Dunham (11.0 ppg) has missed just one of his 21 free throw attempts this season.
Ball State has the pieces in place to perhaps get things together in the MAC this season, but it has yet to show it can compete with high-quality teams on the road. Butler has weapons all over the court, which will prove too much for the Cardinals to handle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Butler 79, Ball State 64
12/01 10:35:39 ET