Previewing Ball State's Mid-American Conference quarterfinal opponents

In response to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's recommendation to limit the attendance of athletic events to athletes, parents and other essential to the games due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mid-American Conference Tournament will be closed to the general public, according to a press release from the Mid-American Conference. 

The Ball State Daily News will still be in attendance for the tournament. More information on the Mid-American Conference's decision to limit the attendance of the tournament can be found on their website

With the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament in the books, the brackets for both the men's and women's tournaments have been set. In the women's bracket, No. 2 Ball State Women's Basketball will face No. 7 Eastern Michigan. In the men's bracket, No. 3 Ball State Men's Basketball will face No. 6 Kent State.

As we near tipoff, here's a preview of what both the men's and women's teams will be going up against this week in Cleveland.

No. 2 Ball State Women's Basketball vs. No. 7 Eastern Michigan Eagles 

Tipoff: Wednesday (March 11) 5 p.m. at Rocket Morgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio 


Radio: 102.9 FM / 1340 AM

The sideline erupted after Sydney Freeman made a three-pointer late in the game Feb. 29, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals beat the Chippewas 67-62. Jacob Musselman, DN

The Cardinals only lost five times in the regular season, and going into Monday's first-round game, both of their pending opponents had defeated them. Eastern Michigan punched its ticket to Cleveland with a 76-69 win over No. 10 Northern Illinois in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The Huskies had the most recent defeat of the Cardinals 70-62 in DeKalb, Illinois, March 4. The loss was Ball State's worst loss since losing to Ohio by eight Jan. 18 in Athens, Ohio. Ball State's quarterfinal opponent has proven to be a challenge to the Cardinals throughout the season.

In their most-recent meeting Feb. 22 at Eastern Michigan, the Eagles held off a Ball State comeback with two late free throws, snapping the Cardinals' five-game winning streak 61-58. Prior to that game Jan 11, Ball State defeated Eastern Michigan by five off a late 7-0 run for a 59-54 victory.

In both those games, redshirt junior guard Areanna Combs was the X-factor for the Eagles. In their first meeting, she led all players with 18 points and was only outrebounded by junior forward Oshlynn Brown by three 14-11. In the Eagles' win over the Cardinals, she once again led all scorers with 15 points. She averages almost 20 points (19.2) per game for the Eagles. 

Sophomore forward Blake Smith takes out a defender Jan. 11, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. The cardinals beat the Eagles 59-54. Jacob Musselman, DN

In their first-round win over Northern Illinois, Combs had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Combs was also named to the All-Conference Second Team Tuesday. Junior guard Courtnie Lewis has also been heating up for Eastern Michigan, as she followed Combs' 23 points with 21 of her own. Monday's finish was Lewis' second straight 20-plus-point finish. 

For Ball State, the team continues to find an edge off upperclass leadership, specifically in Brown. The Cardinals' lone All-Conference First Team representative recorded her sixth straight double-double in an overtime win against Western Michigan Saturday. She knocked down 17 points and picked up 15 rebounds in the win. She averages 14 points and nine rebounds a game. 

Ball State has also seen heavy production from freshman guard Sydney Freeman and sophomore forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir. Freeman, who was named to the All-Conference Freshman Team, has averaged 10 points for the Cardinals this season and picked up 17 against the Broncos Saturday. Agustsdottir has also averaged around 10 points for Ball State this season and finished with 13 points against Western Michigan. 

Last season, Eastern Michigan fell to Central Michigan in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament while Ball State lost to Toledo in the first round. The Eagles haven't moved past the quarterfinals since defeating Ball State in 2016. The Cardinals have been to Cleveland a handful of times but haven't advanced past the quarterfinals since 2014. Ball State lost to Akron in the championship game that year. 

No. 3 Ball State Men's Basketball vs. No. 6 Kent State Golden Flashes

Tipoff: Thursday (March 12) 9 p.m. at Rocket Morgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio 


Radio: 96.7 FM /104.9 FM 

Redshirt senior guard Josh Thompson (3) Redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague (25) and Senior forward Kyle Mallers (14) huddle together before the game against Indiana State Nov. 17, 2019, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind. The Cardinals beat the Sycamores 69-55. Jacob Musselman, DN

The Golden Flashes punched their ticket to Cleveland off an 86-76 win over No. 10 Eastern Michigan in Kent, Ohio. Kent State was led by junior guard Danny Pippen, as he finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. 

The Golden Flashes have had an up-and-down season, finishing the regular season at 9-9 in MAC play. Kent State has excelled at home at 14-3 but has faltered on the road at 5-8. One of the Golden Flashes' three losses at home came against Ball State Feb. 4 62-54. In that game, Ball State shot 37 percent from 3-point range to Kent State's 5 percent. 

Kent State has racked up some impressive wins at home, defeating Akron and Bowling Green at the MAC Center. The Golden Flashes also hold a season sweep over the Falcons, the only team in the conference to do so. With Kent only 50 minutes away from Rocket Morgage FieldHouse, the short drive may benefit the Golden Flashes. 

In their last five games, the Golden Flashes have followed a similar pattern to their .500 finish, going 3-2 with all wins coming at home. Pippen has led Kent State throughout the season, downing 14 points per game and picking up seven rebounds. He's followed by senior guard Antonio Williams, who has averaged a team-high 14.7 points per game. 

Junior guard Ishmael El-Amin walks to the locker room with Head Coach James Whitford at halftime Jan. 7, 2020, at John E. Worthen arena. Ball State beat Buffalo 88-68. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ball State is red hot rolling into Cleveland, winning four of its last five. Its most recent win came over Northern Illinois March. 6 in DeKalb, Illinois, seeing the Cardinals win by 21 points. Aside from a 69-63 loss to Toledo, Ball State's last four wins have been decided by nine points or more. 

The Cardinals continue to roll off a standout season from redshirt senior forward Tahjai Teague, averaging 14 points per game and nine rebounds. He has posted three double-doubles over his last five games. He's closely followed by junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, averaging 13.8 points per game. He's posted four straight 10-plus-point finishes in the last five games.

Ball State and Kent State fell into a similar situation back in 2018 when the two met in the MAC quarterfinals with the Cardinals as a four seed and the Golden Flashes as the fifth seed. Riding a three-game losing streak heading into the game, Ball State fell to Kent State 76-73. The Golden Flashes fell to eventual champion Buffalo in the semifinals. 

Last season, the Cardinals, as an 11 seed, upset No. 6 Eastern Michigan before falling to No. 2 Bowling Green in the quarterfinals 99-86. After receiving a first-round bye as a four seed, Kent State was upset by fifth-seeded Central Michigan 89-81. 

The last time Ball State advanced past the quarterfinals was in 2017 when it defeated Western Michigan. The Cardinals later fell to MAC runner-up Akron in the semifinals. 

Contact Jack Williams with comments at or on Twitter @jackgwilliams


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