The Akron Zips men’s basketball team is set to travel to Muncie, Indiana on Saturday, Jan. 27 to take on the 12-8 (3-4) Ball State Cardinals. Coming off of their first back-to-back conference wins of the season, the Zips look to move to a .500 record in the Mid-American Conference.
The Zips, after coming off of their first back to back wins in the conference, look to add another first to their season. Akron currently has a 0-5 record on the road in John Groce’s first season at the helm. The last two games, Akron has trotted out two different lineups, so we will see who Coach Groce decides to go with this Saturday.
While the Zips work to continue their two-game winning streak, Ball State looks to end their two-game losing streak. The Cardinals haven’t lost two games straight since their two losses earlier in the season, losing to two NCAA tournament teams from last year, Oregon and Bucknell, respectively. After that, they ripped off nine wins in a row.
With the loss of Emmanuel Olojapoke for the season and Jaden Sayles for a period of time, the Zips received help from their other freshman big man, Mark Kostelac. He scored a career-high, 10 points in their previous win over Ohio. Coach Groce will look to him to hold down the fort against the Cardinals second leading scorer in MAC play, Trey Moses.
Tayler Persons is the player to keep an eye on for the Cardinals. The 6’3” junior guard is averaging 14.3 points per game, but can easily go off on any given night. Persons was Ball State’s key player in the Cardinals major upset over then-ranked Notre Dame, in South Bend, scoring 24 points and hitting the game-winner.
For the Zips, they will be lead by their usual trio of Utomi, Ivey, and Duviveir. Last game, the trio combined for 46 of the teams eventual 71 points. They will need a big game out of their guards and wings in order to win this game.
The winner of this game won’t immediately be thrust into the race for their respective leagues; however, it will take them closer to where they want to be. Ball State currently sits at second in the MAC West, while the Zips sit at fourth in the MAC East, with both having a 3-4 conference record.
Coach Groce and the Zips seem to be headed in the right direction. More than half of Akron’s conference games still need to be played and the Zips are looking to notch their first road win against Ball State.