Three pointers: What to watch between Ball State and IUPUI
Head coach James Whitford isn't putting too much emphasis on any one game this season, but last years loss against IUPUI is one he knew got away.
Ball State (3-4) hosts IUPUI (2-3) Saturday at Worthen Arena for the team's third-consecutive game against an Indiana-based opponent. One of the team's 13 losses last season came on Dec. 3 against the Jaguars after the Cardinals scored just 10 points in the last 14:30.
"IUPUI, I've got a lot of respect for them," Whitford said. "They came in here and beat us last year. That and Indiana State were both games that I really regretted."
Ball State already beat Indiana State and now, after another rest day and two straight practices, Whitford is confident in his team moving forward through the month of December.
Here's what to look out for on Saturday's game at Worthen Arena.
1) Big man play
Six-foot-6 senior forward Aaron Brennan is IUPUI's leading scorer this season, averaging 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
The play of junior center Trey Moses and sophomore forward Tahjai Teague will be big for establishing the Cardinals in the paint and stopping Brennan down low.
Moses has come into his own and while he still hasn't been in the starting lineup for the Cardinals, he's up to averaging 16.9 minutes per game. After playing 19 minutes, Moses scored eight points and pulled in nine rebounds against Oakland City earlier this week.
Teague has continued to be the Cardinals top rebounder with a team-high 7.7 per game on top of his 10.4 PPG average.
2) Battle of the point guards
Junior guard Tayler Persons has been living up to the preseason expectations so far this season.
The 2017 All-MAC second team selection is leading Ball State in points per game (15.9), minutes (28.1) and assists (31). Playing head-to-head against prolific guards like Oklahoma's Trae Young and Oregon's Payton Pritchard should make Saturday's opponent familiar territory for Persons.
Senior guard Ron Patterson, a Syracuse transfer, has a similar stat line to Persons this season — leading the Jaguars in points per game (11.8), minutes (31) and 3-pointers made (11).
Still, even when Persons is on the bench, Ball State has another point guard who has proven his worth early this season — freshman Ishmael El-Amin.
After entering the game against Oakland City, El-Amin hit a pair of 3-points which started the second half run that gave Ball State its eventual 24-point victory. On Tuesday, El-Amin played a team-high and career-high 29 minutes off the bench for the Cardinals — scoring 13 points and three assists.
3) Finishing strong, utilizing depth
In last season's matchup, Ball State was outscored 44-26 in the second half which led to the eventual 11-point loss against IUPUI.
Against Oakland City, it wasn't until five minutes into the second half where things really started clicking for Ball State on both sides of the ball. Part of that was fatigue from the travel, but there's been another fatigue apparent with opposing teams.
Oakland City had five players on the floor for more than 30 minutes, with one playing all 40 and another playing 25. IUPUI, while not as extreme, does have several players who spend a majority of the time on the court with two averaging 30-plus minutes.
No player on Ball State's lineup has averaged more than 30 minutes per game because of the team's depth — the Cardinals utilize as many as 10 different players in any one game.
Staying fresh will be something to look out for late in Saturday's 2 p.m. tip-off at Worthen Arena.
Contact men's basketball reporter Robby General at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rgeneraljr.