By: Alec Runyan
Ball State Sports Link
The Ball State men’s basketball team will play its next three games in St. Petersburg, Florida at the Jersey Mike’s Classic.
The Cardinals will hit the floor for their first game Thursday night at 8 p.m. against the Florida International University (FIU) Panthers.
Following game one, Ball State will face a quick turnaround as they take on Weber State Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Cardinals will have the day off Saturday before finishing the weekend off against UMass at 2:30 p.m on Sunday.
Just two games into the season, Ball State sits at 1-1 after defeating Omaha 73-69 at home in its last outing. The game was truly a tale of a two halves for the Cardinals, that nonetheless ended in a win.
“Like I said to the team, the first 15 minutes is who we can be, the last 15 minutes is who we are. Just a young team that hasn’t been together long,” head coach James Whitford said following the game. “We have to turn the 18-20 into 40, and I think that is the challenge.”
The Cardinals made the most of nearly every possession through the first half with just two turnovers. Not only were they taking care of the ball but were shooting the lights out as well. Ball State made 8-of-15 attempts from deep through the first 20 minutes of the game.
The second half was a struggle for Ball State offensively, leaving the door open for Omaha. The Mavericks made a late run but came up short after missing a layup with under a second left that would’ve tied the game. Demarius Jacobs grabbed the final rebound before knocking down two free throws to seal the game.
Jalen Windham led all scorers with 14 points, tying a personal career-high against Omaha. Windham, a former Creighton transfer, played in just 11 games his first season in Muncie after battling through an injury but has provided a nice boost for Ball State off the bench in the first two games. He’s the only player on the Cardinal’s roster to post double-digits in both contests – averaging 13 points, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal a game.
Luke Bumbalough, one of just two starters returning for Ball State, has nearly doubled his scoring from a season ago – averaging 14 points a game. Windham and Bumbalough have been successful behind the arc in the early season, both knocking down seven 3-pointers between the first two games.
FIU Panthers – November 18 @ 8 p.m.
FIU opened its season at Georgia, nearly pulling off an upset to start the season but eventually fell short 51-58. The Panthers then took down Division-III opponent Trinity College (FL) in a 111-48 blowout this past Friday.
In the game against Georgia, FIU went deep on their bench with 11 games seeing minutes. The Panthers are predominantly guard/wing heavy, with the exception of 7’1 center Seth Pinkey. Although Pinkey hasn’t seen a ton of minutes, he has started both games so far and could provide an interesting matchup for freshman Payton Sparks.
Junior guard Tevin Brewer has led the Panthers in scoring so far, with 14 in each of the first two games. Brewer provides experience as a returning starter and has been effective from deep (6/11) so far this year.
Weber State – November 19 @ 5:30 p.m.
Weber State enters the Jersey Mike Classic a perfect 2-0 but will play UMass on Thursday ahead of the matchup with Ball State.
The Wildcats have a very complete roster with a good mix of veterans and underclassmen making an impact already. Freshman forward Dillon Jones has tallied a double-double in his first two collegiate games, averaging 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Marquette transfer Koby Mcewen brings a ton of experience as a fifth-year senior for the Wildcats. Mcewen has started 112 of his 117 games played over the past four seasons (two at Marquette, two at Utah State). Through two games Mcewen has averaged 18.5 points and four rebounds. In his career, he’s averaged double-digits in all but his junior year where he posted nine a game.
UMass – November 21 @ 2:30
Much like Ball State, UMass lost its top two leading scorers from last year to the transfer portal but also brought in some talented transfers as well. The Minuteman currently sit at 2-1 on the season, including an impressive 25-point win over Penn State.
Senior forward Trent Buttrick has led the way for UMass, averaging 15.3 points and nearly seven rebounds. Buttrick, a Penn State transfer, has seen a significant increase in his role in his first season with his new team.
The Minutemen’s strength has been their offense through the first three games, scoring nearly 80 points a game. Aside of Buttrick, three other Minutemen all average 12 points a game, creating a very balanced attack.
All three games will be aired on CBS Sports Network. Follow along with @bsusportslink for more updates!