Guard Franko House pushes his way for a two-point lay up against Toledo forward Steve Taylor Jr. on Jan. 31 in Worthen Arena. Ball State defeated Toledo 81-80. Grace Hollars // DN File
PREVIEW: Ball State men's basketball vs. Akron
Coming of its worst home loss since 2013, Ball State men’s basketball (15-8, 6-4 MAC) is on the road Feb. 7 against the Mid-American Conference-leading Akron Zips (19-4, 9-1 MAC).
Head coach James Whitford said after the loss to the University of Buffalo that the Cardinals will use the “butt kicking” as motivation for the matchup against the Zips.
“If anyone who isn’t a little humble, hurt and angry, you are probably in wrong line of work,” Whitford said. “A key for us is to stay consistent and not get to high or too low.”
Ball State stats:
Field goal percentage: 47.0
Field goal percentage defense: 41.5
Rebounding margin: +3.3
Leading scorer: 16.1
Field goal percentage: 47.9
Field goal percentage defense: 44.5
Rebounding margin: +3.7
Leading scorer: Isaiah Johnson — 16.5
Playing against Akron comes with competing against one of the league's best big men in senior forward Isaiah Johnson. He leads his team in scoring averaging 16.5 point per game, rebounding with 7.3 per game, and assists with 3.1 per game.
Whitford said winning against Akron starts with stopping Johnson.
“Johnson is, when you look at what he is doing statistically speaking, how much he changes the game,” Whitford said. “It stems around him, they have other players around him, but you either double him or you don’t double him and those are two really bad choices.”
The Zips have three other players averaging double digit scoring in senior forward Kwan Cheatham Jr. (11.9), junior guard Antino Jackson (11.7), and sophomore guard Jimond Ivey (10.0).
Ball State is known for shooting the 3-ball and doing it well, but Akron ranks one spot ahead of the Cardinals, ranking third in the MAC with a 38.3 percent field goal percentage.
To beat Akron, Whitford said it would start in practice.
“We have to practice well and try and play a really tough Akron team in the road,” Whitford said. “We have a really tough schedule in February.”
The Feb. 7 game against 9-1 conference leading Akron starts a stand against a tough conference schedule.
After Ball State plays Akron, it is slated to play the two teams tied with it for the second spot in the MAC at 6-4: the University of Ohio \ Feb. 10 and Northern Illinois University Feb. 14.