By: Parker Webster & Donnie Harmon
Ball State Sports Link
Following head coach Brady Salee’s 300th win Tuesday night in the regular season opener, the Ball State Cardinals (1-0) host the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (1-0).
“You start thinking about all the players and coaches you’ve had on the journey… and they remain on the journey,” Brady Salee said on getting his 300th win.
Coach Salee received phone calls, texts, and emails congratulating him on the 300th win. Now looking to build on that record as the rest of the Ball State Cardinals look to get the win and stay undefeated at home.
Ball State started the season off the way they wanted, after an overtime win against Milwaukee in Worthen Arena on November 9th.
“It’s not who we play, it’s how we play,” Salee said. It’s what has echoed through practice and film sessions so far in the season.
The Mid-American Conference meets the Horizon League on Friday, November 12th. With the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons coming down to Muncie.
They have a new leader this year but have yet to go through a normal game day. A COVID-19 breakthrough has outed four coaches including head coach Maria Marchesano, for both games this week.
Marchesano has only been able to coach through Zoom, and the interim head coach Steven Asher, who will be coaching for her on the sideline.
It’s a rebuilding time for the Mastodons as she was a part of a rebuild as a player when she played at Butler University (2001-2005). Saying the first step to a rebuild is building character and strong chemistry amongst the team.
Marchesano eyes turning the program from a losing program to a winning program. Last season the Mastodons finished (1-22). The team of twelve players are looking to help start the change this season.
“We haven’t seen anything like Ball State in our preseason,” Marchesano said.
Both squads wanting to keep them undefeated here is what to look for on the floor.
DONNIE’S SCOUTING REPORT:
Ball State will be heavily favored in this matchup against a Purdue Fort Wayne team that won just one game a season ago. The Cardinals are a very deep and balanced team that went 11 deep in their first outing against Milwaukee. In what was a tightly contested game throughout, Ball State was able to pull out a win in overtime against a team voted as second best in the Horizon League preseason poll by the coaches.
Ball State combines a good mixture of returning experience, youth, and offseason additions. In their first game, the Cardinals shot just over 44% from the field and 32% from three, similar numbers to last year. Where Ball State looked much improved was cleaning up their offense. The Cardinals posted 14 assists to 11 turnovers, much better than their per game averages of 13 assists to 17 turnovers. While Ball State did not start a true big against Milwaukee, Marie Kiefer and Annie Rauch both filled that role off of the bench. They are also facing a small Purdue Fort Wayne team.
It is tough to get a read on whether or not Purdue Fort Wayne has improved from their 1-22 campaign a year ago, as they blew out a mismatched Division-III Manchester team by a score of 102 to 35 in their opener. While the quality of their opponent was not high, there is no doubt that first year head coach Maria Marchesano had her team ready to play.
Marchesano, a Fort Wayne native, looks to turn PFW around after spending four years at the helm of Mount St. Mary’s, where she led them to a 2021 NCAA tournament berth, winning the 2021 Northeast Conference coach of the year award. The Mastodons have a lot of new faces on their roster, and nearly doubled last year’s scoring average against Manchester, as they put up just under 54 points per game last year.
They also shot significantly better in the opener, over 50% from the field and the 3-point line, compared to last year when they shot an alarming 34.2% from the field and 25% from the 3-point line. Something to watch is if they can continue to force turnovers against a Ball State team that limited them against Milwaukee, as the Mastodons had an absurd 24 steals in their opener. Worth noting is that all 10 players who saw playing time in the opener for PFW played at least 15 minutes and scored at least four points.
Freshman Ally Becki earned the start against Milwaukee and did not disappoint. Becki, an Indiana All-Star who led Brownsburg High School to an unexpected berth in the Indiana class 4A state championship game last season, led Ball State in scoring with 17 points. The freshman shot an incredibly efficient 7-9 mark from the floor, shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc, while also posting four rebounds, a steal, and a block. If Becki can perform at that level consistently, the freshman could take the team to a new level.
Another player to watch is Sydney Freeman. The junior point guard, Ball State’s leading returning scorer, struggled from the field against Milwaukee, shooting just 2-9. Her playmaking, however, was excellent. After leading the team with 4.8 assists per game last year, she posted five in the season opener. She also played clean basketball, not turning the ball over after leading the team with almost four per game last season.
PURDUE FORT WAYNE:
Sylar Starks, a junior transfer from Detroit Mercy, posted 21 points in 21 minutes in the opener for the Mastodons, shooting 5-6 from three. While she struggled mightily from the field as a sophomore, the former Horizon League all-freshman team member can be streaky, and if she stays hot, could be PFW’s go-to scorer this season.
Watch out for junior guard Shayla Sellers. The three year starter is a stat sheet stuffer who posted nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the season opener. She makes the winning plays the Mastodons will need if they want to pull the upset.
You can listen live to the game on Friday, November 12 on SL Digital Radio, broadcasted on the Ball State Sports Link Twitter, and Facebook pages. Parker Webster and Donnie Harmon will be calling the action in Worthen Arena.
The pregame show begins at 6:15pm with the game tipping off at 6:30pm.