The Ball State men’s basketball team is on the road again Saturday to face Southern Illinois of the Missouri Valley Conference in Carbondale, Ill. Tipoff is set for 2:05 p.m. CT (3:05 p.m. ET).
Saturday’s game is a return trip for the only meeting between the teams in the past decade, a 2012 BracketBusters game won by the Cardinals in Muncie.
Ball State (2-6) has challenged itself early this season with a schedule ranked as the 16th-toughest in the country by Jeff Sagarin. The Cardinals lost Tuesday at Marquette, while Southern Illinois (2-8) is coming off a Tuesday defeat at Murray State.
Ball State at Southern Illinois
Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2:05 p.m. CT (3:05 p.m. ET) -- SIU Arena (Carbondale, Ill.)
• Radio (Flagship): Ball State Radio Network (104.1 FM WLBC); Joel Godett (play-by-play); Ron Hecklinski (analyst)
• Internet: Live audio available through the Ball State All Access package at ballstatesports.com; Live video and live stats available at siusalukis.com.
What You Need to Know
• Ball State heads to Southern Illinois at 2-6 on the season following a 91-53 loss Tuesday at Big East preseason favorite Marquette.
• Ball State freshmen combined to play 110 of the team’s 200 minutes and score 37 of the team’s 53 points at Marquette.
• For the season, freshmen have accounted for more than 45 percent of Ball State’s minutes and scoring.
• The Cardinals’ strength of schedule is rated as high as No. 16 in the country (Sagarin), and their losses have come against teams with a combined record of 45-20.
• Freshman point guard Zavier Turner leads the Cardinals with averages of 13.8 points and 4.0 assists per game.
• Seniors Jesse Berry (11.6 ppg) and Chris Bond (10.1 ppg) are also averaging double figures.
• Senior center Majok Majok ranks second in the Mid-American Conference and 36th nationally with 9.6 rebounds per game.
• Majok, who is averaging 8.5 points per game, has three double-doubles on the season.
• The Cardinals are in the midst of a stretch in which they play three straight and five of six games on the road. They conclude that stretch Dec. 30 at James Madison.
• Ball State is playing its 93rd season of basketball and its first under head coach James Whitford.
Scouting Southern Illinois
• Southern Illinois is 2-8 on the season and enters the game with losses in four straight.
• The Salukis dropped a 73-65 decision Tuesday at Murray State in their most recent action.
• Six of Southern Illinois’ eight losses have come by single digits, and its largest margin of defeat was a 13-point setback in the season opener at Missouri.
• Desmar Jackson, a 6-foot-5 guard, leads the Salukis and ranks 26th nationally at 21.1 points per game.
• Fellow backcourt players Anthony Beane (12.7) and Jalen Pendleton (10.6) are also averaging double figures.
The Series with Southern Illinois
• Ball State and Southern Illinois will be meeting for the 13th time Saturday.
• The Salukis own a 7-5 edge in the all-time series and have won four of the previous five meetings in Carbondale.
• The teams have played only once in the past decade with the Cardinals winning 71-62 in Muncie in a 2012 Sears BracketBusters game.
• Current Ball State player Jesse Berry scored 13 points that day as one of four Cardinals in double figures (Randy Davis 19, Tyrae Robinson 14 and Jarrod Jones 10).
• Saturday’s game is a return trip for that 2012 BracketBusters meeting.
• Ball State’s strength of schedule is ranked among the top 40 in the country by a variety of outlets: Jeff Sagarin (16), Ken Pomeroy (25), ESPN.com (26), CBSSports.com (39) and Warren Nolan (39).
• The Cardinals’ six losses this season have come against teams with a combined record of 45-20: Utah (10-1), Butler (8-2), Indiana State (7-3), Marquette (7-4), Valparaiso (7-5), and Cleveland State (6-5).
• Butler’s only losses came by two points to No. 5 Oklahoma State and in overtime to LSU.
• After opening with three of its first four games at home, Ball State is now in a stretch where it plays five of six on the road.
• The Cardinals last played at home Dec. 4 against Valparaiso and will not return to Worthen Arena until Jan. 3 against Oakland City.
Majok One of the Nation’s Best
• Senior center Majok Majok ranks second in the MAC and 36th nationally in rebounding at 9.6 boards per game.
• He owns five double-digit rebounding games, including a 16-rebound effort against Taylor that was one shy of his career high.
• Majok led the MAC last year and ranked 18th nationally at 9.8 rebounds per game.
Majok Majok’s Double-Doubles
• Majok Majok owns three double-doubles on the season and 12 over his two seasons at Ball State.
• Majok ranked third in the MAC with nine double-doubles last year in his first season at Ball State and nearly averaged a double-double for the season at 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
• The last Cardinal to average a double-double in a season was Theron Smith, who tallied 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in 2001-02.
Turner’s Fast Start
• Freshman point guard Zavier Turner is leading the Cardinals with averages of 13.8 points and 4.0 assists per game.
• He has scored at least 15 points in five of Ball State’s eight games.
• Turner became the first Cardinal with at least 17 points and at least four assists in the first three games of a season since Larry Bullington in 1973-74 and just the second to accomplish the feat since Ball State began tracking assists in 1973.
• He became the first Ball State freshman with at least 17 points in the first three games of a season since Jim Fields in 1975-76 and just the second since freshmen became eligible for varsity competition in 1972.
Turner’s Shooting Numbers
• Zavier Turner leads the Mid-American Conference in free throw percentage (.963) and 3-pointers per game (2.5) and ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (.513).
• He has made all but one of his 27 free throw attempts and sunk 20 of 39 from beyond the arc.
• Turner has hit at least three 3-pointers in five of the Cardinals’ eight games, including a career-high four at Marquette. He has been held without a trey in only one game (Dec. 4 vs. Valparaiso).
More Turner Rankings
• Zavier Turner also ranks among the top 12 in the MAC in assists per game (4.0, 6th), minutes per game (31.8, 7th) and points per game (13.8, 12th).
• He leads MAC freshmen in each of those categories (including the ones in the previous note) except 3-point percentage, where he ranks second only to teammate Mark Alstork (.615).
Persistent Crowder Gets His Chance
• Ball State walk-on senior guard Kindon Crowder played nine minutes and scored three points Tuesday at Marquette in the second appearance of his career.
• Crowder is a former team manager for the Cardinals who first earned a roster spot as a practice player a year ago.
• He played high school basketball his freshman year at St. Francis de Sales in Chicago but did not play his final three seasons at Munster High School in Indiana.
Alstork Developing as Scorer
• Freshman Mark Alstork has been Ball State’s second-best scorer over the past four games at 9.3 points per game.
• Alstork has scored double figures in three of those four games and is coming off an 11-point effort at Marquette when he knocked down a career-high three 3-pointers.
• Alstork has been efficient in limited attempts from beyond the arc, knocking down 61.5 percent (8 of 13) to lead the MAC in 3-point percentage.
Youth and Experience
• Ball State’s lineup this season is heavy on both experience and youth.
• There are only two scholarship players on the Cardinals’ roster outside the freshman and senior classes, so those two classes account for the majority of the minutes on the floor.
• Ball State’s freshmen have stepped in to make an immediate impact, accounting for more than 45 percent of the team’s minutes and scoring.
• Freshman Zavier Turner leads the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game, while freshmen also rank first and second on the team in assists -- Turner 32 and Quinten Payne 13 (T-2nd). Freshman Franko House is second on the team with 4.9 rebounds per game.
Rebounding Telling the Story
• Ball State has held a double-digit rebounding advantage in both of its wins this season, but the Cardinals have been out-rebounded in each of their six losses.
• The team has held an average rebounding margin of +19.5 in its wins over Taylor (53-25) and Southeast Missouri (46-35).
• In the six losses, Ball State has been out-rebounded by an average margin of 5.3.
Berry Reaches 1,000
• Senior guard Jesse Berry surpassed 1,000 points for his career in the Nov. 30 game at Cleveland State.
• Berry’s final basket of the night, a second-half 3-pointer, gave him 10 points for the game and 1,001 for his career.
• He has since added 12 more points to raise his career total to 1,013.
• Berry is the 27th member of Ball State’s 1,000-point club. Former teammate Jauwan Scaife, now a graduate student manager for the Cardinals, became the 26th member last season.
Berry from Downtown
• Jesse Berry has moved into third place on Ball State’s all-time 3-pointers list with 173 for his career. He ranks second in school history with 499 3-point attempts.
• Former Ball State teammate Jauwan Scaife set the school record for 3-pointers last year, finishing his career with 203 treys. Patrick Jackson (1998-2002) is second with 202.
• Berry shot a career-best 37.5 percent from beyond the arc last season and raised his percentage to 41.2 during MAC play.
Whitford Era Underway
• James Whitford, who was introduced April 10, 2013 as the 19th head coach in program history, earned his first career win in the Cardinals’ 73-53 victory Nov. 12 over Taylor.
• Whitford came to Ball State after serving the previous eight years on the staff of Sean Miller at Xavier and Arizona, including the past two as the Wildcats’ associate head coach.
• He also has previous MAC experience with 11 years on the staff at Miami University under head coaches Herb Sendek and Charlie Coles.
• During his career as an assistant coach, Whitford’s teams posted an overall record of 400-208 and reached the postseason 13 times, including 10 NCAA tournament appearances.
Kamieniecki to Miss Season
• Senior post player Matt Kamieniecki will sit out the season after undergoing wrist surgery. He will redshirt this season and return to the floor as a fifth-year senior in 2014-15.
• Kamieniecki has played in 74 games through his first three seasons at Ball State. He averaged 4.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a junior, starting 11 of the final 16 games after being limited by injury in the first half of the season.
• At this point, Kamieniecki will be the only senior on next year’s Ball State roster.
Returning for the Cardinals
• The loss of Matt Kamieniecki leaves Ball State with six returning letterwinners from last year, four of which are seniors -- center Majok Majok, guard Jesse Berry and forwards Chris Bond and Tyler Koch.
• Majok led the MAC and ranked 18th nationally in rebounding last year. He averaged nearly a double-double at 10.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
• Berry is the team’s top returning scorer. He ranked second on last year’s team at 12.8 points per game, trailing only departed senior Jauwan Scaife’s 16.6 points per game.
• Ball State’s two additional returning letterwinners are both sophomores in forward Bo Calhoun and guard Chase Brogna.
Relying on Young Talent
• Ball State brought in a class of four scholarship freshmen, all of whom are averaging at least 15 minutes per game.
• Freshman Zavier Turner, an all-state point guard from Pike High School in Indianapolis, is being asked to shoulder the majority of the ball handling load for the Cardinals.
• The class of scholarship newcomers also includes guards Mark Alstork from Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton and Quinten Payne from North High School in St. Charles, Ill., along with post player Franko House from Concord High School in Elkhart, Ind.
Majok Tabbed Preseason All-MAC
• Majok Majok was named to the preseason All-MAC West Division Team in a vote of media from around the league. He was joined in the West Division by Toledo’s Rian Pearson and Julius Brown, Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington and Eastern Michigan’s Glenn Bryant.
• The preseason All-MAC East Team consisted of Buffalo’s Javon McCrea and Will Regan, Akron’s Demetrius Treadwell and Quincy Diggs, and Miami’s Will Felder.