Suffering its second straight loss to Central Michigan, Ball State Men's Basketball (14-13, 5-9 MAC) heads into its final stretch of regular season games, taking on Toledo (21-6, 9-5 MAC) at home on Tuesday. Here's your scouting report.
The Cardinals' late game collapse to Central Michigan stood as "a disappointing loss" head coach James Whitford said. After holding a lead into halftime, the Chippewas would go on a 16-4 run in the final minutes to secure a win. In that span, Ball State was out rebounded 16-3. Kevin McKay destroyed the Cardinals on the boards with 19 pull downs.
Fouling became an issue for the Cardinals as three players would commit four. Redshirt junior Tahjai Teague would foul out late to finish with 12 points. Ball State also saw the return of sophomore guard Ishmael El-Amin after he sitting out due to injury. The guard had eight points, going 2-4 from deep.
In Mid-American Conference play, the Cardinals are second to last in turnovers, averaging 15.2 per-game. Ball State has also struggled on rebounding the ball on their end of the court as they have allowed an average of 37.5 pull downs. However, the Cardinals have been strong on rebounding the ball defensively as they are third in the MAC, averaging 28.5 defensive boards per game.
In individual rankings, the Cardinals sit a handful of players in the top 10 for various categories. Redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons moved up a seed in scoring to fifth, averaging 16.5 points per game and is seventh in assists, with 3.6 per game. Teague is fourth in rebounding, at 8.6 pull downs a game, and fourth field goal accuracy, holding a 48 percent accuracy. Rounding out the stats, redshirt junior K.J. Walton and Teague are fourth in steals with 1.8 per game.
The Rockets continue to soar as they are coming off a three point win over Northern Illinois, 57-53. Toledo's second leading scorer, Nate Navigato, dropped 21 points against the Huskies, dropping 4-6 from deep. The Rockets big man, Luke Knapke, used his height to his advantage for team high 13 rebounds.
One player who has been inconsistent for the Rockets is their leading scorer, Jaelan Sanford. The senior dropped 24 against Buffalo two weeks ago before combining for 15 points over the corse of two games. Against Northern Illinois, Sanford went 3-10 from close, 0-3 from deep and turned over the ball three times.
As a team, Toledo has one of the best offenses in the MAC, sitting in fourth downing 72.9 points per game. On defense, the Rockets are fifth allowing 71.1 points per game. The Rockets are also the strongest defensive rebounding team in conference, averaging around 30 pull downs per game. Alongside, the Rockets are lockdown at the line with a 76 percent field goal accuracy.
In individual stats, Jackson Willie is sixth in rebounding with 7.9 pull downs per game and fourth in assists with four per game. At the line, Marreon Jackson has down 31-40 for a 80 percent accuracy and fifth best in the MAC. Lastly, Knapke is first in blocks with two swats per game.
Both teams are playing for something seating wise. Toledo is looking to lock up a first round BYE in either the second or third seed. The Rockets sit two losses behind Bowling Green, who's in second. Ball State continues to battle for the final home seed in the first round. They are a loss and a win behind Miami (Ohio) and are currently tied with Northern Illinois for ninth.
The last time these two met was the first game of the MAC season in which the Cardinals defeated the Rockets, 79-64. Persons and Teague both broke in the 20 point margin. Teague went 3-4 from three that night.
ESPN's match up predictor is split down the middle at 50/50 for both team's chance to win. The game can be watched on ESPN+ or listened to on 96.7 WBKQ or on 104.9 WERK. Tip off is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena.
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