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BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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MAC’S titans clash tonight

Want to put your basketball program on the map? Here’s a quick way to do it: Go to a season-opening tournament in Hawaii, defeat third-ranked Kansas, come back the next night and beat fourth-ranked UCLA. Top it off by giving No. 1 Duke an eyeful before losing in the tournament championship game.

It worked for Ball State, which Bowling Green will play tonight at 7 p.m. in Muncie, Indiana. Ball State leads the MAC’s West Division with a 10-5 record despite the fact they took on one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country. In addition to the games in Hawaii, they have played Butler, Oklahoma State and Indiana. BG, at 13-1, has one of the top-winning percentages in the country. This may be their toughest road test of the season and a good indication of where they stand.

Ball State has six players averaging double figures, led by 6-8 forward Theron Smith with 18.7 points per game. Guard Patrick Jackson is second with 18.1 points per game.

“There is no question in my mind Theron could have played at that (Big Ten) level,” said Ball State coach Tim Buckley. “The thing is, we kind of took him out of the bushes . . . nobody really knew about him.” Buckley is a former assistant coach at Wisconsin. Recently, it has been better for MAC teams to play the Cardinals at home than on the road. Last season, Ball State went 4-5 in the conference at home and 7-2 on the road, including a 62-59 win at Anderson Arena.

“I’m not really sure why we were better on the road,” Buckley said. “I think it’s because when we were on the road, that’s all we had to think about.”

The Falcons go into tonight on a 12-game winning streak that is nearly two months old. Their only loss so far was against Washington in the season’s second game. As the streak has mounted, more people have started to wonder if BG really is this good. BG coach Dan Dakich has been trying to fight the egotism and self-satisfaction that can accompany a winning streak.

“I hope it’s not like Duke,” he said. “Duke gets a loss, and now they’re refocused. I gurarantee that if you talk to Duke’s staff, they will say, ‘We don’t want a loss to refocus.'”

Dakich said that most people remember Ball State’s shooting, but that is far from the whole story.

“We see quickness on the perimeter with two big, strong inside guys that can hit the offensive boards,” Dakich said. “I think Buckley has done an amazing job in starting off with all the fanfare and maintaining play through it.”

BG’s back court of Brandon Pardon and MAC leading scorer Keith McLeod will have to help contain Ball State’s perimeter game while Len Matela and Brent Klassen deal with Smith and center Lonnie Jones. The low post may be where tonight’s game is ultimately decided. BG’s ability to prevent Ball State from grabbing offensive rebounds and giving second-shot opportunities to their outside shooters could be their breaking point.

BG is not Kansas or UCLA, but they are trying to get into the Top 25 neighborhood. Tonight’s game can go a long way to show if they belong there.

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