BY JACK KIZER | Ball State Sports Link
After a 27-point loss to Buffalo, the top two teams in the MAC East lie ahead for Ball State this week.
The Cardinals’ offense will be tested as Akron and Ohio are top three defenses in the conference. By the numbers, they are both challenging match-ups across the board and are stingy tests for Ball State.
|Akron Team Stats||Ball State Team Stats|
|PPG: 79.2||PPG: 79.5|
|PA: 70.9||PA: 74.7|
|FG%: 47.9%||FG%: 47%|
|3FG%: 38.3%||3FG%: 37%|
|FT%: 67.5%||FT%: 72%|
|RPG: 35.4 (Margin +3.7)||RPG: 38.2 (Margin: +3.3)|
|APG: 14.8||APG: 16.1|
|TOPG: 11.9||TOPG: 15.3|
|SPG: 5.3||SPG: 6.2|
|BPG: 3.3||BPG: 3.6|
Tuesday’s game for Ball State has the highest level of difficulty of any conference game for the Cardinals this season. They travel to Akron to face a Zips team that is 19-4 overall, 9-1 in the conference and 11-0 at home. Record alone is a big intimidation factor, but they aren’t overly dominant by the stats.
The best categories for the Zips is field goal percentage (47.9 percent) and three-point field goal percentage (38.3 percent), ranking first and second in the Mid-American Conference respectively.
Akron is very efficient on offense and is also exceptional defensively, holding opponents to 70.9 points per game. Back in early December, the Zips lost at top-ranked Gonzaga by 18, but held the Bulldogs to 61 points in Spokane.
Senior leadership has been a big part of Akron’s success and it has ironically come from the two biggest players. Isaiah Johnson and Kwan Cheatham Jr. both stand at 6-foot-10 and are the top two scorers per game.
Johnson is the 290-pound power player who contributes 17 points and seven rebounds each contest, while Cheatham Jr. is the 235 -pound forward who shoots 40 percent from downtown, scores 12 points per game and also collects eight rebounds per game. This pair of seniors will be a handful for Ball State’s forwards on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Some of the prowess of Akron, however, has started to fade recently. They lost at Ohio by 15, allowing 85 points. In nine conference wins for the Zips, seven have been by single digits. Wins are wins, but style points haven’t been abundant for the school from Northeast Ohio.
Ball State is also coming off of a discouraging loss to say the least. A 27-point loss to Buffalo set the Cardinals back after a five-game winning streak. Franko House had 24 points, while Tayler Persons followed with 15, but their performances were overshadowed by rebounding and turnover issues. Those problems were Déjà vu from play early in the season.
If the Cards hope to get a victory Tuesday, they’ll have to take care of the ball, crash the boards and defend the best shooting team in MAC effectively.
Ball State vs. Ohio, February 10th, 6:30pm
|Ohio Team Stats||Ball State Team Stats|
|PPG: 77.1||PPG: 79.5|
|PA: 68.7||PA: 74.7|
|FG%: 45.5%||FG%: 47%|
|3FG%: 39%||3FG%: 37%|
|FT%: 67%||FT%: 72%|
|RPG: 36.7||RPG: 38.2|
|APG: 14.3||APG: 16.1|
|TOPG: 12||TOPG: 15.3|
|SPG: 2.8||SPG: 6.2|
|BPG: 3.6||BPG: 3.6|
The second affair for Ball State comes on Friday — and it doesn’t get much easier despite the homecourt advantage.
Ohio is the best defensive team in the MAC, holding opponents to 68.7 points per game, 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from deep. As if having a top-tier defense weren’t enough, the Bobcats also top the Mid-American Conference in three-point percentage (39 percent) and scoring margin (+8.5).
Despite these stellar numbers, Ohio is just 14-7 overall and 6-4 in the MAC. Those aren’t incredibly impressive at first glance, but three of the four conference losses have been by single digits. Also, one of their eight conference victories came on the road at Georgia Tech, a team that has knocked off three Top 15 teams at home.
An area that’s aided the wins is balanced scoring. Four players average over 12 points per game, led by 6-foot-9 senior Antonio Campbell. Campbell produces over 16 points and nine rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they’ve had to play the past six games without the reigning conference MVP. Campbell is listed as day-to-day with a right foot injury. His absence would greatly benefit Ball State, as he scored 26 points and corralled 10 rebounds last season in Muncie.
Franko House had a nice game himself against the Bobcats last February with 13 points, leading all Cardinal scorers and has continued to have conference success this season.
House is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds in MAC play, including his career high of 24 points last Friday against Buffalo.
Campbell’s presence could greatly influence House’s and Ball State’s team production as a whole. Either way, Ball State and Ohio look to have a dog-fight on their hands Friday.