BY NOAH REED | Play-by-Play Voice of Ball State Women’s Basketball on Sports Link Radio
For just the second time in nine years, Ball State has opened MAC play with a 3-0 record. The Cardinals travel to Central Michigan, the preseason favorite to win the conference, for a MAC West showdown Wednesday night. The game can be heard on Sports Link Radio on WCRD.
Last Saturday, Ball State fell behind Western Michigan by as many as 14 points in the first quarter before storming back to win 61-56. The win snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Broncos.
Ball State was led by 17 points from junior Moriah Monaco. The Dover, Ohio native connected on all three attempts from the perimeter in the fourth quarter to lead Ball State to the five-point victory.
Renee Bennett also reached double figures with 14 points and 14 rebounds, giving her a fourth double-double of the season. The 14 rebounds were also a career high for the senior center. Senior guard Jill Morrison rounded out the double figuring scoring for the Cardinals with 10 points.
What to Watch for Wednesday:
1.) Central Michigan’s Balance
The Chippewas feature four double figure scorers, all of whom average at least 13 points per game. Sophomore point guard Presley Hudson, leads the charge with nearly 18 per game.
Over the last three contests, Hudson’s numbers have increased astronomically. The reigning MAC Freshman of the Year is averaging 31 points over the stretch, including 57 percent from the field and 56 percent behind the three-point line.
Other double figure scorers include: Tinara Moore (13.9), Cassie Breen (13.6) and Jewel Cotton (13.2). Central Michigan is the only school in the Mid American Conference to have four scorers ranked in the Top 20 in the league.
2.) Perfect Conference Records on the Line
Central Michigan and Ball State are two of only three teams remaining in the MAC to sport unbeaten records. These two schools were picked first and second, respectively, in the MAC West prior to the start of the season.
After losing its final non-conference matchup of the year to Middle Tennessee State on the road, 79-69, the Chippewas have ripped off three consecutive wins, all of which have been conference games.
Towards the end of the 2016 calendar year, Ball State had dropped three out of four games, but the Cardinals have since been in the win column for four in a row, including all three league games.
A win on the road Wednesday would give Ball State its second 4-0 conference start since 2006-07, when the Cardinals opened MAC play 7-0.
3.) Point Guard Matchup
Arguably the conference’s two best point guards will be stepping on the same floor in Mount Pleasant.
Ball State’s Carmen Grande is among the nation’s leaders in assists at 7.3 per game. That’s puts her not only first in the MAC, but also eighth in the entire NCAA.
She’s on pace to shatter Ball State’s single season record. In 1999-2000, Shala Crook accumulated 197 assists, which averaged out to be 6.8 per game. With Ball State playing a minimum of 31 games this season and Grande averaging 7.3 per game, she is in pace to end the year with at least 226 assists.
Along with the team high 17.6 points per game Central Michigan point guard Presley Hudson averages, she is among leaders in the conference in numerous statistical categories. The All-MAC Freshman Team selection a year ago averages nearly five helpers per game, sixth best in the conference as well as 1.7 steals per game, which is Top 10 in the league.
Possibly the most impressive fact is Hudson has missed just three free throws all season (43-for-46). The 94 percent clip is seventh in nation and first in the conference. Hudson was named the College Madness National Player of the Week after her first two collegiate games as a freshman a year ago, when she averaged 27 points per game and shot 60 percent from the field in those games.
Tip is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday night. Game action can be heard on 91.3 WCRD Sports Link Radio with Noah Reed and Cory Stace or 102.9 FM and 1340 AM Fox Sports Muncie with Tyler Bradfield and Mick Tidrow.
• Ball State will play its second Mid-American Conference road game of the season when it travels to MAC West Division rival Central Michigan Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff in Mcguire Arena. The Cardinals have opened league action with a 3-0 record after posting wins over Toledo (51-45), Kent State (71-47) and Western Michigan (61-56). The 3-0 mark is the best start since the 2014-15 season when Ball State opened conference play with victories over Bowling Green, Miami and Western Michigan. The Cardinals are currently 10-5 overall and 3-0 in MAC action.
• Central Michigan enters with an 11-4 overall record and a 3-0 conference ledger. The Chippewas have opened league action with wins over Kent State (91-78), Akron (89-62) and Buffalo (88-71). Central Michigan owns an 8-1 home record this season in McGuirk Arena.
• Wednesday’s game against Central Michigan will mark the 73rd time the teams have met, with the Chippewas leading the all-time series record, 37-36. Ball State lost both of its meetings to Central Michigan last season. From 1996-present the Cardinals own a 28-11 record over the Chippewas. Ball State’s largest win streak against Central Michigan was 11 from 2000 thru 2006. In 2014-15, the Cardinals swept the series over the Chippewas winning at home, 73-64 on Feb. 18 and then clinched the MAC West Division title with an 85-69 win at Central Michigan on March 4.
• Fifth year head coach Brady Sallee has guided the Cardinals to a 24-10 (.687) Mid-American Conference mark in the month of January over the course of his last four years; 2012-13 (6-1), 2013-14 (4-4), 2014-15 (6-3), 2015-16 (6-2) and 2016-17 (2-0).