Northern Illinois (5-23) at Ball State (14-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: John E. Worthen Arena (11,500) -- Muncie, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 3-11, Ball State 7-8. Away Record: NIU 2-12, Ball State 7-6. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Ball State 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 3-12, Ball State 7-8. Series Record: Ball State leads, 48-32.
GAME NOTES: In search of their fifth straight win, the Ball State Cardinals welcome the Northern Illinois Huskies to John E. Worthen Arena for a Mid- American Conference tilt on Saturday Afternoon.
Earlier this season, Ball State defeated Northern Illinois, 56-52, in DeKalb. Jauwan Scaife netted 23 points, including the decisive free throws with less than a minute remaining to lift the Cardinals to victory. Now they face the Huskies in the regular-season finale with a chance to host a first-round tournament game pending the outcome of this matchup, and the result of the clash between Buffalo and Bowling Green.
Ball State most recently took down Western Michigan in an 89-85 final thanks to 28 points from Jesse Berry and an 11-point, 14-rebound effort by Majok Majok. The Cardinals enter today's contest having won four straight while averaging a whopping 88.8 points during that span, up considerably from their season average of 65.8 ppg.
Losers of nine straight, Northern Illinois will try to finish its regular season on a high note. Coming off a 70-46 loss at Toledo, the Huskies will face Ball State without their leading scorer, Abdel Nader, who is expected to miss his third straight game due to personal reasons. In Nader's absence, Aksel Bolin stepped up with 14 points on 5-of-10 from the field and 2-of-2 from behind the arc in the recent loss to the Rockets.
Ball State is led by Scaife, who ranks fifth in the conference with 16.2 ppg and is the winner of two of the last three MAC Player of the Week awards. Majok Majok anchors the defense and is one of 15 players nationally averaging a double-double (10.8 ppg, league-leading 10.1 rpg). Berry, who comes off the bench, is second on the squad with 13.3 ppg.
The Huskies have had a season to forget, especially at the offensive end of the court. They come in averaging a league-worst 54.5 ppg and are without a double-digit scorer with Nader out of the lineup. Akeem Springs is second on the team with 7.7 ppg, but he is shooting an inefficient 33.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Travon Baker and Daveon Balls each average 1.9 apg for NIU, which averages just eight assists per game as a team.
During their four-game win streak, Ball State is shooting 46.8 percent from behind the arc and outrebounding its opponents by 11.5 caroms per contest. Expect the Cards to make it five in a row to close out the campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 69, Northern Illinois 52
03/09 10:38:39 ET