GAME NOTES: The Marquette Golden Eagles will close out a two-game homestand at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday night, as they square off with the Ball State Cardinals in a non-conference clash.
Since moving to 2-1 in mid-November with back-to-back victories, Ball State has fallen flat in recent weeks with losses in four straight games. The Cardinals' last game was nearly two weeks ago, when they dropped a home matchup versus Valparaiso on Dec. 4, 69-50.
Marquette has had a treacherous road in the season's first six weeks. It has lost games to nationally-ranked teams Ohio State (52-35), San Diego State (67-59) and Wisconsin (70-64), as well to a strong Arizona State squad (79-77). The Golden Eagles have played well against the teams they are supposed to beat, however. Their most recent win, a 86-50 trouncing of IUPUI on Saturday, moved them to 6-4 overall and 4-1 at home.
The Cardinals and the Golden Eagles have never before faced off in men's basketball.
Ball State struggled mightily to get offense going in its latest game, as it shot a lowly 26.9 percent from the field and had as many turnovers as it did field goals (14) in scoring less than 60 points for the third time in four games. Mark Alstork was one of the few bright spots in the setback, scoring 11 points in a reserve role. Jesse Berry was also solid with 10 points.
The Cardinals' struggles on offense have been well established this season, as they shoot just a shade over 40 percent from the field for 66.4 points per game, 6.7 points fewer than they allow on the other end of the floor. They've also been turnover prone, committing nearly 15 turnovers per game for a -3.3 margin. Zavier Turner is the leading scorer with 13.4 points per game, and while he's been disappointing from the floor (.380), he's nearly automatic from the foul line (24-of-25). Berry (13.0 ppg), Chris Bond (10.9 ppg) and Majok Majok (9.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg) have also played well.
The Golden Eagles pieced together arguably their best all-around performance in their 36-point victory over the weekend, as they shot a lofty 64.9 percent from the field, while holding IUPUI to under 30 percent. They also dominated the rebounding battle, 46-23. Davanate Gardner made the most of his 23 minutes off the bench by shooting 10-of-14 from the field for 20 points, while adding 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Jamil Wilson stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Juan Anderson tallied 11 points, five assists and five steals, while Jajuan Johnson and Deonte Burton each scored 10 points.
On the season, Marquette outshoots its opponents from the field, 44.4 percent to 37.7 percent, for a convincing +9.4 scoring margin, and it also holds a decided +8.4 advantage in the rebounding battle. Gardner (14.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is the leading scorer despite coming off the bench in every game. While Jamil Wilson (12.2 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, seven others put up at least 4.7 points per game.
Marquette has failed several times this season to prove itself against elite competition, but luckily Ball State does not fall into that category. On their home floor, the Golden Eagles should have no issue soaring past the Cardinals.
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