Mat Mikesell

The defending Mid-American Conference Tournament champions return to Cleveland on Wednesday to face a familiar opponent from this season.

 

For the third time this season, Ball State University will face the University of Toledo, this time in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals. The Cardinals and Rockets have split the season series this year.

Coach Kelly Packard said her team does have confidence in beating Toledo earlier this season, but needs convincing they can win in Cleveland following the Rockets' 62-48 lopsided win in Toledo not even two weeks ago.

"I have to convince them they can win," Packard said. "They were disgusted with how they played in the second half of the game at Toledo. They have to believe but also know it won't come easy."

The Cardinals practiced at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon, which Packard believes will help her team stay focused.

"Besides to survive and advance, we have to stay focused," Packard said. "We are familiar with the tournament environment, we just have to focus on our keys to win."

One key for a Ball State victory is to shut down Toledo senior forward Tanika Mays and sophomore guard Naama Shafir. In MAC play, Mays averaged 17.2 points and eight rebounds per game. Shafir averaged 13.3 points and 7.1 assists per game.

"They are a large amount of their scoring and leadership," Packard said. "Mays is a very good rebounder and Shafir runs the show for them. She wants to push the ball and penetrate the lane."

Even with the game played in Ohio, Packard has confidence that the neutral court at Quicken Loans Arena gives her team an advantage.

After all, Ball State has eight players on its roster from last season's MAC Tournament Champion team that defeated powerhouse University of Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"Toledo has proven their fans will follow them in large groups," Packard said. "But we are used to this tournament setting, like with Bowling Green last year and even the game against Tennessee."