Men's team hosts second of three game homestand

Ball State will face off with Akron Saturday in an attempt to retain its winning streak which now stands at four.

Wednesday night Ball State faced off with the Mid-American Conference's best team, record-wise: Bowling Green. Saturday, Ball State (11-5 overall, 4-1 MAC) will face the conference's worst team, record-wise: Akron.

Akron comes to Worthen Arena with an overall record of 4-12 and a conference record of 0-5, sitting at the bottom of the East division standings.

For head coach Tim Buckley, records mean nothing.

"We being in first and they being in last is totally irrelevant," Buckley said. "It has no bearing on the game. All that matters is what happens on the floor.

"We have to come and play with the same intensity and enthusiasm as we have been. We know (Akron) will be well prepared."

Akron will head into Saturday's matchup averaging 64 points a game as a team. Ball State, however, averages nearly 81 points a game.

Leading scorers for Akron include the coach's son, Andy Hipsher. Hipsher averages 12.6 points a game with teammate Rashon Brown close behind, averaging 12.1 points a game.

Rebounding may be Ball State's strongest point going up against the Zips Saturday, especially with junior Theron Smith, the MAC West Player of the Week. Smith averages 11.5 rebounds a contest. His average ranks him No. 6 in the country. Smith is also beginning to make his mark in national scoring statistics, ranking at No. 24 averaging 19 points a game.

Aside from Smith trying to increase his numbers and move up in the rankings, Cardinal Petie Jackson will try to make his mark on the Ball State record books. Currently, Jackson has 159 career three-point baskets. That ranks second on Ball State's career chart. Jackson is only two shots away from breaking the record, held by Randy Zachary (1993-97) with 161.

Even with the impressive numbers, Buckley continues to focus on one game at time. One aspect of Ball State's play with which the coach is becoming more pleased is its ability to handle tough situations.

"What we have done this year is handle adversity better," he said. "Last year we would be in a conference game, we'd go up seven, the other team would call a timeout and they would take the lead. The guys are just a lot more focused this year."

Buckley also continues to be impressed with his team's resiliency with its home games.

"The recent history of the MAC shows the last three teams that have won the MAC have been 9-0 at home," Buckley said. "It's very important to play well at home. It's very important to be successful in the league. You have to get the wins at home so you can go on the road and try to steal some."

Ball State has lost only once at home this season, to Butler on Dec.19.

Cardinal Chris Williams credits much of the team's success at home to the crowd.

"I think basically it's our crowd support," he said. "Our support has been great this year. The student section has been great. Last year there weren't that many students that would show up. But I give a lot of credit to our fans for our success at home."

Buckley agreed the home crowd has played a factor in his team's play in Worthen Arena this season.

"Fans are very important," he said. "Our crowd (against Bowling Green) was exceptional. It really gives us energy. Our guys really feed off of that."


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