The Ball State slide continues.
Sitting atop the MAC West as recently as January 10th, the Cardinals (7-10, 2-4) are now mired in their longest losing streak of the season, four games, and are just a game ahead of division cellar dweller Eastern Michigan.
Things won't get easier for Ball State Tuesday night as they get a road matchup with Akron. The Zips (13-6, 4-2) find themselves tied with Bowling Green for second place in the MAC East, a game behind division leader Kent State. Akron scored a big win on Saturday, knocking off MAC West co-leader Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.
The Zips did it with their front court on Saturday. Akron's second win against WMU this season was fueled by center Isaiah Johnson who scored a career high 16 on 5 of 8 shooting. Johnson averages just over 4 points this season, but also played significantly increased minutes against the Broncos.
Kwan Cheatham Jr. and Reggie McAdams both chipped in 9 against Western. Akron's a team that succeeds with balance. No Zip ranks in the top 30 in scoring in the MAC. Inactive against WMU was power forward Pat Forsythe, Akron's leading scorer. Ball State could struggle against the larger Zips, particularly with Matt Kamieniecki day to day with a back injury.
Despite the size, every Zip likes to chuck it from deep. Guard play is led by Noah Robotham. The freshman from Las Vegas, Nevada is playing big minutes, Robotham averages just shy of 10 points per game and has attempted at least four treys in nine different games this season.
Guard play is bolstered by senior Deji Ibitayo. Ibitayo scores 9.8 points a game like Robotham, but does it with fewer minutes. While Robotham plays more than 30 minutes a contest, Ibitayo plays just 18.
Ball State is in free fall and needs a win. They're not getting closer either. Saturday's 63-52 loss to Kent State was the widest margin since the losing streak began. The Cardinals hit just 4 of 17 from behind the arc while the Golden Flashes hit 51% from the field.
Leading scorer Zavier Turner struggled in his return from a one game absence. The sophomore played 24 minutes attempting just 3 shots and scoring 5 points. It was the first time Turner failed to score in double digits in conference play this season.
Freshman Sean Sellers is trending in the right direction. Against KSU Sellers scored 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Sellers has now scored in double digits in 4 of his last 5 games. In the last four he's knocked down a total of 10 of 20 three point shots.
If Kamienicki doesn't play against Akron, the contributions of Bo Calhoun and Franko House will be critical. Both shot well the last time out. Calhoun scored 12, House, 13. While Calhoun's 12 marked his second highest scoring performance of the year, he totaled just 5 rebounds, his lowest since January 3rd. House seems to be improving every game, and his 6 of 8 shooting against Kent State was his highest shooting performance since hitting 6 of 7 against Grambling State on November 24th.
Ball State and Akron tip off from James A. Rhodes Arena at 7pm ET.