The Ball State University Basketball Cardinals (2-2) travel to Eastern Illinois (2-5) for a matchup with the Panthers on Wednesday night.
Let's start off with the good news. Ball State point guard and last season's MAC Freshman of the Year Zavier Turner rejoins the Cardinals after a two week suspension for a violation of team rules.
"This was, I think, a valuable learning experience for Zavier," Cardinals coach James Whitford said. "Every young person has to go through something like this. He's going to learn a lesson from it, and if he does, it will be a blessing."
The Cardinals had to do some juggling recently with Turner's absence. He was sorely missed on November 22nd, when BSU fell to IUPUI 71-69 at the buzzer in overtime. In that game, freshman Jeremie Tyler saw increased minutes and struggled mightily. In 39 minutes he tallied just one assist versus seven turnovers, the last leading to the game winner for the Jaguars.
The last time on the hardwood was a more pleasant experience for the Cardinals. Ball State scored a 88-46 home win over Grambling State. In that game the Cardinals hit 14-28 three pointers and shot 55% from the field.
While a chunk of the scoring load will go back to Turner's shoulders, he'll have help. Freshman Sean Sellers has been lighting up opponents in his first four games with the Cardinals. Sellers is Ball State's leading scorer at better than 19 points a game. He shoots 57% from the field, and a blistering 63% from behind the arc.
The frontcourt will be lead by Rocco Belcaster and Matt Kamieniecki. Belcaster scored 15 points and hit 4 of 6 threes against Grambling State. Kamieniecki leads the team on the glass, averaging 9 rebounds a game. He ripped down 13 boards against GSU and 15 against IUPUI.
Eastern Illinois competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, and they'll get another crack against the MAC when they host Northern Illinois on December 13th.
It's been a rough season so far for the Panthers. November 29th they scored a win against Southern, snapping a four game skid. EIU averages just 55 points a game and scored 40 against North Carolina Central on November 28th.
The Panthers are led by Trae Anderson. The 6-foot-4 junior guard averages 10.6 and 4.1 rebounds a game. Against Southern he hit 5 of 7 field goals and scored 16 points, tied for his season high. Remarkably enough, he's also the team's leading rebounder. Ball State fans can also expect to see significant minutes from freshman point guard Cornell Johnston.
Chris Olivier played limited minutes against Southern, but remains an important part of the Eastern Illinois defense. He will be tasked with limiting the contributions from Kamieniecki and Belcaster.
Seniors Reggie Smith and Dylan Chatman will also be rotated through the Panthers guard heavy lineup. Both play more than 25 minutes a game.
Ball State and Eastern Illinois tipoff from Lantz Arena Wednesday 8 pm ET.