By: Noah Reed | @NoahReed_24
Voice of Ball State Women’s Basketball on WCRD
Member of Ball State Sports Link
For most mid major programs, making the WNIT is good enough. If not, then surely making it three straight years is enough, right?
For the Ball State women’s basketball program, its sights are not set on making it four consecutive appearances.
Instead, Head Coach Brady Sallee has made it clear that this year’s team has the talent to go into Cleveland, win the Mid American Conference championship, and earn that bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
“That’s something we aren’t afraid to talk about,” Sallee said. “It’s something I think we are good enough to do.”
The Cardinals have had eight days off without a game and are looking to bounce back after a 73-63 loss to in state rival and Big Ten foe, Purdue.
Looking at nothing but the stat sheet after the games, you would think Ball State controlled the pace of the entire game and won.
The Cardinals shot nearly 50% again from the field (49.1%) and held Purdue to just 41.4% from the field. Ball State also outrebounded the Boilermakers 33-27 and scored more points in the paint than a very lengthy Purdue team (32-26).
But one little stat made all the difference in the game — turnovers.
Ball State was forced into 20 turnovers while Purdue once committed nine of its own. Purdue was able to scored 14 points off the Cardinals’ miscues.
Purdue led 12-8 after one frame and was only able to add two points to that lead by halftime, with a 29-23 advantage. Nathalie Fontaine was the only Cardinal in double figures at recess, with a game-high 10 points and five rebounds.
Just three minutes into the third period, Ball State was able to trim the lead to just one possession, 31-28. This was the lowest it had been since 5:08 in the first quarter.
Purdue responded with a 9-0 run in just a span of 51 seconds to extend the lead to 12, the largest of the game. The run was sparked by two April Wilson three pointers and an old fashioned three-point play from point guard Ashley Morrissette.
Both teams traded baskets over the next few minutes before another Ball State run took place. Shelby Merder netted five consecutive points, including a three pointer, to cut the Purdue lead to 47-43 with 1:14 remaining in the third period.
The Cardinals couldn’t hold off the Boilermakers over the final 1:14 of the quarter, as Purdue was able to extend its to 10 points by the end of the frame.
Ball State was unable to get any closer than eight points over the final 10 minutes of the game, as the Cardinals eventually fell inside Mackey Arena, 73-63
Storylines to watch when Ball State travels to Evansville on Monday:
Nathalie Fontaine searches for sixth straight 20+ point game.
Fontaine was named Preseason Player of the Year inside the Mid American Conference earlier this season, and she has lived up to it in every sense possible. Averaging 21.4 ppg and 9.4 rpg, she leads the conference in both of those statistics as well being among the league leaders in free throw percentage at 87%.
In back-to-back weeks, Fontaine has been named MAC West Player of the Week. Over the past five contests, she has reached the 20-point mark in each game. In those five games, Fontaine numbers have sky-rocketed to 24.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg.
Can Ball State continue to dominate the boards?
It’s no secret that one of the Achilles heels for the Cardinals last year was the inability to rebound at an efficient rate. Ball State was out-rebounded by nearly three boards per game last year, including an 18 rebound disadvantage (52-34) in last year’s MAC semifinal loss to Eastern Michigan.
This year has been quite a different story, however. Ball State is second in the MAC in rebounding margin through nine games at +8.4 rebounds per game.
Coach Sallee makes the comment nearly every game that one of the keys for a Ball State win is to out-rebound the opponent, which has happened almost every time out this season.
Ball State has only failed to out-rebound its opponent once this season, which was the first game of the year Nov. 13th at Charlotte. When out-rebounding the opposition, the Cardinals are 6-1 this season.
You can catch the action of tomorrow’s game at Evansville at 8pm ET on Fox Sports Muncie (102.9 FM/1340 AM) with Tyler Bradfield and Rachel Galligan or Sports Link Radio on WCRD (91.3 FM) with Cory Stace and myself on the call.