The Ball State University Basketball Cardinals (3-3) need a road win.
Whitford's warriors will get their fourth crack at such a victory Saturday evening against the Valparaiso Crusaders (9-2). They will do so without redshirt sophomore center Mading Thok. Thok requested and was granted permission to speak with other schools about a transfer. It is expected that he will seek to transfer to a Division II school where he could see increased playing time.
For the rest of the Cardinals, the goal will be to win consecutive games for the first time this season. Last Saturday Ball State rebounded from an eight point halftime deficit to score a 70-63 win over the Indiana State Sycamores in Muncie. Down a point with under two minutes remaining, the Cardinals got a pair of clutch three pointers from freshman Francis Kiapway to secure the victory.
The Cardinals are growing more balanced every game, especially since the return of Zavier Turner. Against Indiana State, five Cardinals scored in double figures, led by Turner's 15. He also continues to improve as a ball handler, tallying 6 assists against a single turnover versus the Sycamores.
The frontcount had perhaps it's best game of the season a week ago. Bo Calhoun scored 13, and Matt Kamieniecki and Franko House each had 11. Kamieniecki was the game's leader on the glass, ripping down 10 boards. It was the third time in five games he has reached double digits in rebounds.
If there's one concern for the Cardinals moving forward, it's the play the last few games of freshman forward Sean Sellers. Sellers began his Ball State career in spectacular fashion, averaging 22 points, shooting 60% from the field, and hitting 69% of his three point attempts through three games. In his last three he's averaging just over 7 points a contest and shooting 33% from the field.
Ball State's opponent on Saturday is no slouch. Valparaiso, out of the Horizon League, has already run up nine victories on the season. Most recently the Crusaders cruised to a 79-54 win over the Trinity International Trojans on Wednesday.
The frontcourt battle on Saturday evening will be fun to watch. The Crusaders are led by sophomore forward Alec Peters. Peters averages better than 17 points a game on the season, including a season high 31 on November 23rd against Maine. He's a threat from behind the arc, where he shoots over 51%.
Valpo also boasts one of the more dominating forces at the center position in the country. Vashil Fernandez is tied for ninth nationally with 28 blocks on the season. The 6-10 245 pound Texan also contributes better than 6 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
Other than Peters, there are two other Crusaders who score in double figures. Guards Tevonn Walker and Darien Walker both average 10 points per game. Junior Keith Carter plays significant minutes as well, averaging 7.7 points to go with 3.7 assists.
Tip off Saturday night from Valparaiso is at 8pm ET. Ball State's next game will be a home matchup with James Madison. Valparaiso will travel to IPFW.