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NCAA Basketball Ball State Cardinals host the Buffalo Bulls

Adam Hunger

Despite a few heartbreaking losses this season Bobby Hurley has the Bulls well positioned after the first four conference games. Under Hurley the Bulls are off to a 9-5 start, which is pretty close to their 14 total wins from last season. In terms of conference standing, UB is tied for first place in the Mid American Conference with Akron and Ohio with a 3-1 conference record. The lone loss came on the road when a buzzer beater sank Buffalo against the MAC West leading Toledo Rockets.

The recent success in Buffalo is owed to the team's defense. The Bulls have not allowed an opponent to score more than 70 points in six straight games. The last time they were that stingy was in the 2011-12 season when the UB held their foes under 70 for seven straight games. It's been perimeter play which has gotten it done when opponents have the ball. The eighth ranked three point shooting defense in the nation, UB has over the last six games held their opponents to 18-for-88 (20.4%) from beyond the Arc.

Buffalo goes into Muncie defending a three game winning streak against the Cardinals which includes bouncing the Cards out of Cleveland last year on a massive 36 point performance by Will Regan. All time against Ball State UB is on the losing end 13-10 but that total includes losing the first six MAC games the Bulls played after joining the conference in 1998.

Ball State is still trying to right the ship under new head coach James Whitford. The Cards last winning season came under Billy Taylor in 2010. After losing in the MAC tournament last year the Cardinals hired Whitford, who is 3-12 and win-less in the MAC so far.

They have a decent win over the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks but their other two wins have come over lower division teams Oakland City and Taylor.

Against SEMO Chris Bond scored 20 points while Zavier Turner and Jesse Berry added 19 points apiece. If BSU wins balance is where the Cards will beat you. They are an extremely distributed team which has three or four players who are capable of breaking out in a game you expect more lopsided scoring be in those contest Ball State always seems to spread the wealth.

One area where the Bulls have struggled is bench scoring. In their past two games UB has scored just eight (Toledo) and nine (Kent) points off the bench. Should UB find themselves in foul trouble the game could be closer than Buffalo fans might like to see.

The Bulls despite having one of the MAC's best players in McCrea have been able to lean on multiple players and show off their own balance this season. Joshua Freelove, Will Regan, Jarryn Skeete, and Shannon Evans have all had solid games while McCrea steadily scores 10-20 points and owns the boards.

Ball State is the first half of a brutal two road games in three days. Buffalo will be trying to keep pace with Akron and Ohio as they take on BSU Thursday and have a rematch with NIU on Saturday.