Ball State (9-13) at Northern Illinois (5-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 13, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: NIU Convocation Center (9,100) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Ball State 6-7, NIU 3-7. Away Record: Ball State 3-6, NIU 2-10. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0, NIU 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 3-7, NIU 3-7. Series Record: Ball State leads, 47-32.
GAME NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals are riding some momentum into the NIU Convocation Center as they get set to battle the Northern Illinois Huskies in a Mid-American Conference tilt.
This will be the 70th meeting between these schools on the hardwood. Ball State holds a 47-32 edge. This is the first of two encounters this season, as NIU is scheduled to visit Muncie in the regular-season finale on March 8.
The Cardinals is coming off a very unexpected, 65-62 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos. Coach Billy Taylor's squad had lost seven of its previous eight games before ending WMU's seven-game winning streak. Ball State relies on the trio of Jauwan Scaife, Jesse Berry, and Majok Majok for much of its offensive production. Scaife and Berry are first (14.0) and second (12.4) on the team in scoring, respectively, although the latter is listed as doubtful due to a concussion. Majok is one of 15 players nationally with a double- double average, posting 11.8 points and a MAC-best 10.0 boards per game.
Ball State rode a career-high 30-point outing from Scaife on its way to the win over WMU. Freshman guard Marcus Posley started for the injured Berry and posted 15 points, while Matt Kamieniecki added 11 points. Scaife is now producing 17.4 ppg in conference games to rank fourth in scoring in MAC games. Ball State matched its lowest turnover output in conference play with 12 turnovers in Saturday's win over the Broncos. Still, on the season the Cardinals have had trouble on both ends of the floor, as they rank ninth in the MAC in scoring (62.8) and only one slot higher in scoring defense (67.1).
The Huskies continued their trend of inconsistency on Saturday as they yielded another undesired result by falling, 59-54, at Buffalo for their third consecutive loss. NIU actually set a new season-high for the opening 20 minutes by hitting 61.1 percent of its field goal tries in the first half of action against the Bulls, but it cooled off to drain only one-third of its shots from the floor after the break. The poor showing came just four games after NIU broke its own NCAA Division I record for futility, scoring just four points in the opening half of action in its 42-25 loss to Eastern Michigan. NIU is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation and nets only 55.0 ppg. The Huskies have only the sixth best scoring defense in the MAC with 64.3 points allowed, which is a big reason why they have failed to register back- to-back victories at any point this season.
Abdel Nader is pacing NIU in scoring and rebounding, but none of his teammates are remotely close to his team-leading averages. Nader is averaging 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game over his last four games with two double- doubles coming during that span. In the loss to Buffalo over the weekend, Nader led the squad with 13 points in just 19 minutes of action due to foul trouble. Darrell Bowie and Keith Gray tallied nine points apiece in the loss. The Bulls made 38.0 percent from the floor including five 3-pointers, while NIU finished 44.4 percent from the floor and only three conversions from long range in the contest.
NIU has been slightly better at home, where it is 3-7 on the season, while Ball State comes in with a 3-7 mark in true road tests. The Cardinals played one of their best games of the season without Berry due to Scaife's excellence. If he continues to put Ball State on his back, the Huskies are destined for yet another loss.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 68, Northern Illinois 62
02/13 10:32:10 ET