Ball State (6-6) at Eastern Michigan (7-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (8,754) -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: Ball State 5-3, Eastern Michigan 7-1. Away Record: Ball State 1-3, Eastern Michigan 0-6. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0, Eastern Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 0-0, Eastern Michigan 0-0. Series Record: Ball State leads, 55-38.
GAMES NOTES: In the Mid-American Conference opener for both programs the Eastern Michigan Eagles will go up against the Ball State Cardinals at the Convocation Center on Wednesday night.
In its final scheduled non-conference game Ball State took out Norfolk State, 62-61, on a last-second dunk by Majok Majok. The win came on the heels of back-to-back losses for the Cardinals who are now 6-6 this season. That includes just a 1-3 mark on the road. Last season the Cardinals went 6-10 in conference play. Up next Ball State will face off with Kent State back at home.
Eastern Michigan doesn't have a ton of momentum to take into conference play. The Eagles have lost five of their last six games after a 75-61 defeat on the road to Massachusetts last time out. The losing stretch has dropped the once promising Eagles to 7-7 overall. All seven of those wins have come at home. Despite the lowest scoring average in the MAC last season, the Eagles were competitive at 9-7 against league foes. Eastern Michigan hits the road next to battle Bowling Green.
A year ago Eastern Michigan swept the season series including a 61-50 victory at the Convocation Center. Even with the two losses Ball State still has a commanding 55-38 edge in the all-time series.
Ball State led by as many as 14 points against Norfolk State but had the lead whittled down in the second half and in fact trailed for the bulk of the final seven minutes. A pair of free throws from Norfolk State's Rob Parker with five seconds remaining put the Spartans up 61-60. On the ensuing possession Jesse Berry went the length of the court and dished to Majok who slammed the ball home for the win.
Berry has been more scorer than distributor this season as he leads the team in points per game (14.2 ppg). Even at such a solid clip Berry has not been the most efficient of offensive threats as he connects on just 37.9 percent of his shots from the floor. Majok (11.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg) has anchored the team from the inside and is a threat to hang a double-double up just about every game with four on the season. Jauwan Scaife (11.2 ppg) is another double0digit scorer who like Berry has struggled to consistently knock down shots (.353 FG percentage). There aren't a ton of scoring options beyond those three, as Ball State nets just 63.8 points per game. The Cardinals also shoot just 41 percent from the field but have managed to hold foes to 66.8 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting.
Eastern Michigan just couldn't keep up with UMass' production from beyond the arc on Saturday. The Eagles were outscored 33-18 from 3-point range. Also hurting the Eagles' cause was the 20 turnovers they committed which turned into 23 points for the Minutemen.
Just like last season the Eagles have not been a particularly impressive offensive group. Eastern Michigan is ranked second to last in the conference in scoring (58.0 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.390). Also like last year, the Eagles have managed to remain competitive by posting solid efforts on the defensive end, letting just 63.1 points per game on less than 40 percent shooting. Derek Thompson (11.4 ppg) has been the most productive scorer but far from the most efficient as he connects on just 38.4 percent of his field goal attempts. Glenn Bryant (10.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) has kicked his own scoring into gear recently, netting double figures in five of the last six games. Daylen Harrison (10.0 ppg) has scoring ability but has struggled in the last two games where he has hit on just 4-of-20 shots from the field.
Expect this contest to be devoid of offensive outbursts. Instead it will be the team that can best control the defensive end that will prevail and thus far Eastern Michigan has been more successful in that area.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Michigan 64, Ball State 60
01/09 10:32:42 ET