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Ball State (15-14) at Western Michigan (12-19)
Monday, March 5, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Arena (5,421) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: Ball State 10-5, Western Michigan 10-3 Away Record: Ball State 5-8, Western Michigan 2-12. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-1, Western Michigan 0-4. Conference Record: Ball State 6-10, Western Michigan 6-10. Series Record: Western Michigan leads 58-57.
GAMES NOTES: The eight-seeded Western Michigan Broncos and the ninth-seeded Ball State Cardinals will each try to extend their seasons another game when the two square off in the opening round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at University Arena.
This is one of the most hotly contested rivalries in the MAC with a win in the last matchup giving Western Michigan a slim 58-57 all-time edge in the series. Ball State won the first meeting to split the season series.
Ball State won back-to-back games to end the regular season on a high note after the Cardinals dropped nine of their previous 10. Inconsistency plagued the Cardinals who finished just a game above .500 overall and four games under that mark in conference play (6-10).
Western Michigan let a higher seed slip away, as the Broncos crumbled down the stretch losing its last three straight and eight of their last 10. The Broncos finished a dismal 12-19 overall, but had an identical 6-10 tally in league action.
Ball State downed last-place Northern Illinois in its regular season finale. Despite shooting just 39.6 percent from the floor the Cardinals were able to capture a 62-51 win at home thanks to its defense which forced 15 turnovers as well as an 11-5 edge in points from the free throw line.
The Cardinals were not one of the MAC's premier scoring teams this season as they put in only 63.4 points per game. Defense was a strong suit for Ball State though as they surrendered 60.4 points per game which was the 25th best tally on Division I this season. Jesse Berry ended his sophomore campaign on a high note in the team's regular season finale. Berry (9.4 ppg) is the second leading scorer, but ended the game at the top of the box score with 19 points, putting him in double figures in five of the last six games. Jarrod Jones (14.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is the usual lead scorer. The senior forward finished the season ranked fifth in scoring and second in rebounding in the conference.
Western Michigan continued its road woes in the final game of the regular season taking a 76-70 loss to Central Michigan that puts the Broncos at 2-16 away from University Arena, including neutral sites. Western Michigan allowed the Chippewas to shoot at a 45.2 percent clip including 9-of-16 from three-point range, while countering with a 41.4 percent effort itself.
The Broncos were a better scoring team than Ball State this season averaging 68.4 points per game but pales in comparison defensively as Western Michigan often found itself in holes thanks to allowing 70.4 points per game. Even in the loss on Saturday, Western Michigan stayed true to its evenly balanced offensive attack. On the year the Broncos have four players averaging in double figures, with none more than 12 points per game. Matt Stainbrook (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) had the most impressive game scoring 12 points and bringing down 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Flenard Whitfield (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) was the lead scorer, putting in 15 points, while Demetrius Ward (11.7 ppg) and Nate Hutcheson (9.5 ppg) each added 10. Mike Douglas (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) is the fourth member of the squad averaging in double figures and also excelled in running the point.
Western Michigan is a totally different team at home where it has posted 10 wins in 13 games. With that homecourt advantage and its balanced offense, the Broncos should be able to extend their season into the next round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 72, Ball State 67
03/05 10:33:46 ET
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