USA TODAY Sports
Purdue looks to get back on the winning track just before Christmas.
The Boilermakers return to Mackey Arena for the first time in two weeks as they take on Ball State tonight at 7pm. Purdue has not lost three games in a row since losing to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern in succession during the 2009-10 season after starting the year 14-0. A loss tonight would be much worse.
Purdue simply cannot afford to lose to another MAC team, especially one as up and down as Ball State. Even at 4-6 Purdue is the better team and needs to assert itself tonight. This is one of those games I felt we had no chance of losing when the season started, but from what we've seen nothing can be assumed.
Ball State Cardinals
Location: Muncie, Indiana
2011-12 record: 15-15, 6-10 MAC West
2012-13 Record: 5-4
2012 Postseason: None
Blog Representation: Over the Pylon
Series With Purdue: Purdue leads 8-2
Last Purdue win: 69-49 on 12/19/2009 at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Last Ball State win: 72-52 on 12/18/1999 at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Odds: Purdue by 15.5
Tonight will be a homecoming for Ball State leading scorer Jesse Berry. The 6'2" junior guard is a player I saw several times at Lafayette Jeff in high school and he never met a shot there he did not like. He averages 13.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. He can get to the line with regularity, but is 13.2 points per game come with him shooting at only 38% from the field. He is definitely a volume shooter and is not afraid to pull up and take a 25-footer simply because it is there.
Australian forward Majok Majok is averaging a double-double of 12.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as the second option. He is a low post player in ever sense of the word. He'll battle inside all night with A.J. Hammons, but Purdue has more than enough bodies to throw at him. The key will be to keep him off the boards since he gathers in one out of every three Ball State rebounds.
Muncie native Jauwan Scaife is the No. 3 scorer at 10 points per game and he is more of a player that does a little of everything. Aside from Marcus Posley, Scaife has the most assists on the team. He is also an active defender with 13 steals to go with 20 from Chris Bond.
Bond and Posley round out the starting five with Bond playing well undersized as a 6'4" forward and Posley as the promising freshman point guard. The matchup of Posley against Ronnie Johnson should be especially interesting.
This is not an overly big team. Zach Fields at 6'10" is the tallest regular player and he only averages 4.3 points and four rebounds per game. They also do not shoot the three-pointer well as a team at 27.1%. Most of the threes come from Berry and Scaife, bit Michael Ramey has been effective from long range off the bench. Berry has attempted 45 triples so far and only hit 14, so the volume shooter's mentality is in effect.
Really, Berry, Scaife, and Majok are the only players that scare me here, and Berry is a gunner almost to the point of recklessness. He has 31 turnovers against only three steals and 17 assists. That doesn't count wild, ill-advised shots that result in easy rebounds. It is probably why Majok has 36 offensive rebounds on the season and he shoots at almost 49% from the field.
The key is to keep Majok off the glass, which Purdue has the bodies to do. From there, it is time to actually hit a few shots. Of Ball State's four losses, three are against in-state schools. Indiana blasted them by 48 and as we saw on Saturday the Hoosiers don't bother to play defense that often. Indiana State beat them 68-48, while Butler beat them 67-53.
Purdue should win with ease tonight, so be fearful if it does not. Purdue 68, Ball State 52