The Bobcats handed the Akron Zips their first loss of the conference season. The Ball State Cardinals didn’t fair any better in their last outing, getting drubbed by Buffalo. Those two games don’t define the seasons that both teams are having. I expect both teams to bounce back, and battle hard tonight. An added incentive for the Zips, it’s the 4th annual, #4PetesSake Purple Out.
When: Feb. 7th, 6PM
Where: James A Rhodes Arena, Akron
Watch: American Sports Network
Stream: Watch ESPN
Listen: WLBC 104.1 in Muncie or via stream for Ball State/ WARF 1350am or via stream on the IMG Sports Radio Network for Akron
Line: Akron -10
Scouting Ball State
The Cardinals come into the game 15-8 on the season, and 6-4 in the MAC.
They are one of the better shooting teams in the conference, ranking third in both field goal and three point shooting percentage.
Ball State is a balanced team, with scoring from all over the floor and a deep bench. They have a nice mix of senior leadership, and rising sophomores.
One of those sophomores, Taylor Persons, is a rising star in the MAC. He leads the team in ppg, at 16.1. His 4.9 assists are also good enough to lead the team, and place him 4th in the conference.
The Zips come into the game 19-4 overall, and 9-1 in the MAC, good enough for a three game lead on the field.
Also a really good shooting team, they rank second in both field goal and three point shooting percentage. They are one of the top defenses in the conference, only giving up 70.9 points per game, good enough for third in the MAC.
The Zips are led by 6’10 senior center Isaiah Johnson. The offense goes through him. Not only is he leading the team in points and second in rebounds, he is also their leader in assists. The most impressive stat to me is that he shoots 63.8% from the floor.
Players to Watch
Franko House, Ball State: Franko House is one of my favorite players to watch in the conference. He doesn’t blow you away with his stats (13.5 ppg, 6.5rp). What he does do are all the little things that make a team go. A hustler, he has 62 offensive rebounds on the season.
Taylor Persons, Ball State: Another high energy guy, Persons is emerging as one of the better point guards in the league.
Isaiah Johnson, Akron: If you have a giant kid, and want to teach him how to play the post, I highly recommend having him watch Johnson. He makes smart decisions with the basketball, passing out of double teams, and getting the shots that he is comfortable with.
Kwan Cheatham Jr., Akron: After scoring 31 against Buffalo, Cheatham has been in a bit of a slump lately. The 6’10 forward is leading the team in rebounds, but also has a long range jumper. If he heats up, he is really fun to watch.
Keys to the Game
These are two of the deeper teams in the MAC going head to head.
Akron is probably the more athletic team, and it shows on the defensive end. With an exceptionally rocking crowd, Ball State needs to be careful early in this one. Ball State’s super sophomores are going to need to keep their composure.
On the Akron end, Kwan Cheatham Jr. has been in a slump the last two games. When he is hitting, it’s next to impossible to beat this team. He opens up the middle for Johnson, who can damage a team in a lot of ways on the low block.
I think the rocking crowd, coupled with the added urgency from the loss last week, will help the Zips jump out to an early lead. Ball State is a deep and talented team in their own right, and will make runs to keep it interesting. In the end, the talent and home court will be too much to overcome for the Cardinals. Akron, 85-75.