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Notre Dame Basketball: Ball State Game Preview

The Irish host the Cardinals for their second home game in three days

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Wichita State at Notre Dame Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you thought Martinas Geben would lead the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a win over St. Francis Brooklyn with Bonzie Colson and Mike Brey getting ejected from the game... I’ll wait. It was a weird game to say the least. In the first half it looked like the Irish were going to dominate, but they couldn’t sustain it in the second half. They’re going to need to have a more complete game on Tuesday when Ball State comes to town riding a three-game winning streak in which it’s shooting 56.5 percent from the floor.

Quick Facts

  • #BreysChase: Mike Brey is just five wins away from becoming the all-time coaching wins leader at Notre Dame.
  • Cool Maui Brey had never been ejected from a game in his career until Sunday.
  • This will be the 10th meeting between Notre Dame and Ball State, and the first meeting since 1976.
  • Notre Dame is 9-0 all-time in the series with all nine of those wins coming at home.
  • This is the third straight meeting in which the Irish enter the contest ranked in the top 16 of both national polls.
  • Notre Dame’s all-time record against in-state schools is 202-148 (.577).
  • In the Mike Brey era, the Irish are 17-7 (.708) against in-state schools, with a 9-2 (.818) home record in those games.

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149)

When: Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Available via ACC Network Extra and WatchESPN with Nik Valdiserri, Juan Jose Rodridguez and Tamara Brown.

Radio broadcast on the Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan and Zach Hillesland. Available locally on WSBT AM 960/FM 96.1, SiriusXM Channel 81 and via the Notre Dame Basketball Network affiliates.

Ball State Cardinals (4-4)

After splitting the Mid-American Conference West division regular-season title last season, the Cardinals were picked to finish second in 2017-18. With eight returning players, including four starters, Ball State gets 70 percent of its scoring back and will be in the mix for a conference championship and the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinals’ leading scorer is junior guard Tayler Persons, who averaged 15.5 points per game last year and was named to the All-MAC second team. Persons became the first player in Ball State history to record at least 500 points and 150 assists in the same season. The Indiana product has continued to perform at that level this season, averaging 15.3 points and 4 assists per game.

Ball State is a relatively small team led by its guard play. The Cardinals love to shoot, averaging 25.5 three-point attempts per game, but they are only making 33.8 percent of them. Seniors Francis Kiapway and Sean Sellers are fourth and fifth respectively for most three-point field goals made in school history.

Sophomore forward Tahjai Teague leads the team with 7.6 rebounds per game and 66 percent shooting while averaging 10.9 points per game. Sophomore forward Kyle Mallers is the team’s second leading scorer with 12 per game, and junior guard Jontrell Walker adds 9.5 per game while shooting 48.1 percent from behind the arc.

Cardinal to Watch:

Tayler Persons, PG, Junior

Persons is the one player who seems to make this offense work. He leads the team in minutes and has nearly twice as many assists as anyone else. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds he is a big point guard who does most of his scoring from mid-range and in, not surprising for a guy who was also a two-way football player in high school. So far his three-point shooting is the only area of his game that has declined, from 41.9 percent in his sophomore season to 33 percent now. The Irish will need to find a way to limit Persons by being physical with him and cutting off his drive-and-dish to the shooters.

Irish X-Factor:

Martinas Geben, C, Senior

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis-NY at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off his first career double-double, Geben has a great matchup in this one. He is bigger than everyone on Ball State and has a chance to really clean up on the glass again. He will definitely add a few more dunks in this game too. It’s great to see Geben becoming such a useful player for the Irish. He is super efficient in the paint and plays within himself, averaging 20 minutes and has just 5 turnovers all season.

Prediction:

Notre Dame 84 - Ball State 70

I think Notre Dame should be a little bit better offensively, but Ball State is not to be taken lightly. I don’t expect this to be a blowout but if the Irish can control the pace of the game they can pull away. A little extra man-to-man defense might be needed to keep Ball State’s shooters in check, but the Irish should win the rebound battle. This will be a nice win as Notre Dame gets ready to play another in-state program next week, the Indiana Hoosiers.