Ball State (2-7) at James Madison (4-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, December 30, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: JMU Convocation Center (7,156) -- Harrisonburg, Virginia. Television: None. Home Record: BSU 2-2, JMU 0-1. Away Record: BSU 0-5, JMU 2-6. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, JMU 2-2. Conference Record: BSU 0-0, JMU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The James Madison Dukes get one last chance in non-conference play before getting into their league schedule when they take on the Ball State Cardinals at the JMU Convocation Center on Monday night.
After the first three games of this season, Ball State was sitting at 2-1. Since then however, the Cardinals have been stuck in reverse, with losses in six straight games. The most recent setback was a 66-58 defeat to Southern Illinois in the second leg of a three-game road trip that ends Monday. Ball State will host Oakland City on Friday in its last non-league bout.
James Madison is back in the JMU Convocation Center for the first time since its home opener on Nov. 19 against Detroit. Playing so many games on the road and at neutral sites has taken a toll on the Dukes, who are just 4-9 overall entering play. Fittingly, JMU begins its Colonial Athletic Association slate with road games against UNC Wilmington and the College of Charleston.
This will be the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
In the loss to Southern Illinois, Ball State couldn't take advantage of the Salukis' struggles in the second half because it was dealing with its own. The Cardinals knocked down only 32 percent of their shots from the floor over the final 20 minutes, including a dismal 1-of-14 showing from beyond the arc.
Failing to score at an efficient rate isn't new for Ball State. The Cardinals are only netting 64 ppg and shooting just a shade over 40 percent from the floor. Such deficiencies have not been helped by the Cardinals' issues on defense, where they let up 74.3 ppg and 48.4 percent shooting. Zavier Turner (13.9 ppg, 3.9 apg) is the leading offensive threat as well as the top passer. Turner finished with a game-high 15 points against Southern Illinois, netting 3-of-9 shots from beyond the arc. Jesse Berry (10.7 ppg), Chris Bond (10.1 ppg) and Majok Majok (8.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg) are all important members in the rotation as well.
James Madison got itself tangled up in a defensive battle against Hampton last time out. The Dukes managed to pull out a win by a 55-49 final, despite hitting just 12-of-22 shots from the free-throw line. Ron Curry tallied 19 points and hit 7-of-10 shots from the field to power the Dukes to the win.
The Dukes also struggle offensively. They net just 62.2 ppg and shoot at a 41.1 percent clip from the field. Part of the issue is how stagnant they can be on offense, with the team only assisting on 8.4 field goals per game. However, JMU has had more success in slowing teams down, holding foes to 68.6 ppg and 42.2 percent shooting. Charles Cooke (14.8 ppg) is the top scoring option for the Dukes, although he could certainly improve his efficiency as he connects on just 38.9 percent of his total shots. Ron Curry (12.5 ppg) is also leaned on heavily as he and Cooke are the only players averaging more than 30 mpg. Andrey Semenov (11 ppg) is another solid scorer.
It is difficult to really get a read on JMU since it has consistently played on the road. Getting back home should help the Dukes produce better on offense and put the clamps down on defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: James Madison 71, Ball State 64
12/30 10:52:16 ET