By Donnie Harmon
Ball State Sports Link
The Ball State Cardinals women’s basketball team will look to take down a major conference opponent Saturday afternoon, as the 4-2 Cardinals look to defend Worthen Arena against the visiting 6-2 Pittsburgh Panthers.
Ball State is off to a strong start to the season, winning four of six with their two losses coming to tough opponents in Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin. While Ball State brought in seven new faces in the offseason, the chemistry has looked strong early.
Ball State plays a modern style of basketball, with coach Brady Sallee putting an emphasis on position-less basketball entering the season. The Cardinals are balanced and aggressive on offense, not afraid to let it fly, shooting over 30 threes per game.
Pittsburgh plays a strongly contrasting style of basketball to Ball State. In the fourth year of a rebuild under Lance White (15 years at Florida State, 11 at Texas Tech previously), the Panthers have an experienced roster of players mostly recruited by coach White, and are off to a strong 6-2 start, looking for their first winning season since 2014-15.
Pitt plays big, hard nosed, and old school. While scoring a modest 69 points per game, they have held opponents to just 58.8 points per game. They play a very big lineup, with their starting lineup in recent games consisting of three 6 foot+ players who have not shot a three all season. As a result, the Panthers only make about four three pointers a game and shoot just under 62% on free throws, but out-rebound opponents by a staggering margin of 12.6 per game.
Freshman Marie Kiefer will be crucial for Ball State. After getting her first career start in Ball State’s Thursday matchup against Purdue-Fort Wayne. While she embodies the versatility coach Sallee has looked for this year, leading the team in blocks and three point percentage, the 6’2 freshman will have to fill the role of a traditional big against the post-centric Pitt.
While much of the focus on Pitt will be centered around their size and rebounding, their top player, Jayla Everett, plays on the perimeter. The Panthers are undefeated in the 5 games Everett has played this year, as the senior guard who started her career at New Mexico is averaging 18.2 ppg, and is the primary threat from deep for Pitt, leading the team with a 41.9% rate from three.
Three Things to Watch
- Can Ball State handle Pitt on the glass? The Panthers have dominated their competition in that department, while the Cardinals have been slightly out rebounded by competition this year. How will Ball State handle the better size and athleticism from an ACC opponent?
- Can the Cardinals create an advantage through turnovers? Ball State had 18 steals against Purdue-Fort Wayne. Pitt averages a very high 18.3 turnovers per game. Ball State needs to force turnovers and convert it to points in transition, as Pitt is very hard to score against in the half court.
- How will the clashing styles translate to the court? It will be interesting to see the end product of Ball State’s position-less, balanced, high volume three point shooting style, versus Pittsburgh’s gritty, old fashioned, and sometimes ugly style of basketball.
Where to Listen
Sports Link Digital Radio will have coverage of the game on Ball State Sports Link Twitter, Facebook, and the athletics website. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m., with coverage starting around 12:45. Donnie Harmon will be on play-by-play, with Isaiah Rosner on color.