Ball State looks to get back on track against Eastern Michigan

In Ball State's last two games, the team has been presented with two of its biggest challenges this season -- two last-second shots.

The Cardinals missed both shots.

Saturday, the men's team (13-7 overall, 6-3 Mid-Amercan conference) will try to get back into a winning habit by hosting a team the Cardinals have already defeated once this season.

Ball State will host Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday at Worthen Arena.

When the two teams went head to head on Jan. 5, Ball State prevailed over the Eagles, 63-45.

In that game it was Ball State's Theron Smith who was the game's leading scorer with 22 points. He also dominated in what has become his other area of expertise -- rebounding. Smith pulled down 17 rebounds for the contest.

The other leading scorer for Ball State was Petie Jackson with 15.

This Saturday, however, it is still unsure if Jackson will even be able to play. Jackson had surgery on a broken left ring finger Tuesday and has not yet been cleared to play by his doctor.

"Patrick is doing well," head coach Tim Buckley said. "It is going to be day to day at this point. Saturday is not out of the question, but it is day to day."

"I went and got checked out (Thursday)," Jackson said. "It's healing properly, the break is in place, the screws are right where they need to be. I feel good, no pain."

Buckley said he would probably start Zach Willingham if Jackson can't play, despite his disappointment with the junior's performance against Marshall Tuesday.

"I didn't think he played very well," Buckley said. "I thought he struggled at times. Maybe he just needed to get that start out of the way to come back and play the way he is capable of playing."

Another Cardinal who may be able to step back into the offensive spotlight in the absence of Jackson is Rob Robbins. Robbins played 23 minutes and scored 15 points in Ball State's loss to the Thundering Herd Tuesday.

"It's a lot of fun to play," Robbins said. "I have tried to keep my head up this year, but playing behind Patrick and Chris (Williams), I guess I can't complain. I mean everyone wants to play. You just want to get in the lineup and get some playing time and the only way to do that is show what you can do."

One player who hasn't stumbled much at all for the Cardinals this season has been Smith. According to Buckley, Smith is the player he is most pleased with at this point in the season.

"He is as a good of a player as there is in our conference and I think he is as good of a player as there is in college basketball. He comes to work every single day," Buckley said.

Even though Eastern Michigan will head into Saturday's game with a record of 5-16 overall and a conference record of 1-9, Buckley explained that in the Mid-American Conference, taking teams for granted can be a mistake.

"It's nice to be back at home but there are no guarantees," Buckley said. "Eastern Michigan is a team that can score the basketball. They are a tough team to defend."

"That's how I thought we did a good job last time we guarded them and held them to 33 percent in their own building and 45 points. We have to come out with more of an aggressive demeanor Saturday."

Robbins looks at Saturday's game in the same light.

"On paper it seems (easy), but those are the kind of teams that can come up and bite you when you aren't paying attention," he said. "I think they would love nothing more than to come up here and upset our season."


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