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Northern Illinois (4-24) at Ball State (14-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 2:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthen Arena (11,500) -- Munice, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: Northern Illinois 4-11, Ball State 9-5. Away Record: Northern Illinois 0-13, Ball State 5-8. Neutral Record: Northern Illinois 0-0, Ball State 0-1. Conference Record: Northern Illinois 3-12, Ball State 5-10. Series Record: Ball State leads 45-31.
GAMES NOTES: The Ball State Cardinals and the Northern Illinois Huskies will square off in a Mid-American Conference regular-season finale this afternoon at Worthen Arena.
Neither squad will be headed for a high seed in next week's MAC Tournament especially Northern Illinois which has already secured the 12th seed with just a 3-12 mark to go with a ghastly 4-24 overall record. The Huskies stunned Toledo on Wednesday to grab their third league win of the season, earning a 65-61 victory at home on Senior Night. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Huskies.
Ball State has not been much better in league play (5-10) but holds a much better overall mark this season at an even 14-14. The Cardinals downed Central Michigan 71-52 on Wednesday but had lost nine of the previous 10 before the victory. Ball State is not locked into its tournament seed yet but the best the Cardinals can hope for is the eighth spot.
Ball State won the first game between these teams this season with a 10-point victory (75-65) at home at the end of January. The Cardinals now hold a 45-31 advantage in the all-time series including wins in the last four matchups.
Northern Illinois was able to outlast Toledo on Wednesday despite both teams struggling to score with the Huskies going 21-for-51 from the field, while Toledo connected on 19-of-43 shots. The Huskies also held a 31-25 advantage on the boards in the rare victory.
Teams haven't had to put up huge numbers against the Huskies, as Northern Illinois has one of the nation's worst scoring offenses at a mere 55.6 points per game. The team is doing it on a conference-worst 36.6 percent from the field. Freshman forward Abdel Nader (10.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is the leading scorer after Tim Toler (10.8 ppg) was suspended earlier this season. Nader continued to heat up down the stretch by scoring a team-high 12 points against Toledo which extended his streak in double-figures to a season best four games. Askel Bolin (6.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is the teams next best scorer but certainly hasn't been a consistent one with only four games in double figures this season although two have come in the last two games after Bolin netted 10 against Toledo.
Ball State rolled to a rare blow out victory by shooting at a solid 58.1 percent including 6-of-11 from three point range while holding Central Michigan to just 30.4 percent as the Cardinals beat the Chippewas 71-52.
The Cardinals are also a low scoring team putting in only 63.4 points per game which in comparison to Northern Illinois makes Ball State an offensive powerhouse. The Cardinals are far superior on defense as well and actually have a positive scoring differential (+2.6) by allowing only 60.8 points per game. The Cardinals have been carried this season by Jarrod Jones. The senior forward leads the team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) while being the only consistent offensive threat the Cardinals possess. Jones needed the rest of the team to step up as he scored only seven points in the win over Central Michigan. Jesse Berry (9.0 ppg) filled in by pouring in 15 points to rebound from a scoreless performance in the team's previous game. Chris Bond (7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) also stepped into a more prominent scoring role by putting in 13.
Ball State's strong defense should be able to handle Northern Illinois. With the Cardinals playing a team that hasn't gotten a win on the road this season (0-10), Ball State should end the regular season with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ball State 70, Northern Illinois 58
03/03 10:41:56 ET
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