WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State's good fortune runs out
Low-scoring first half, lack of physical play dooms Cardinals
Ball State entered Wednesday night's match riding a tidal wave of confidence, only to watch it collapse onto the shore.
Ball State's two-game winning streak ended against Northern Illinois as the Cardinals (7-11, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) fell to their division foe 73-62.
The Huskies (7-11, 1-4 MAC) jumped out of the gates early as if they were in an all-out 100-yard sprint. The Cardinals had no answer.
"I talked all week about Northern Illinois coming into that game very hungry," coach Kelly Packard said. "They hadn't won a conference game. They were going to come out and be assertive, aggressive, physical and set a tone in their own building."
Northern Illinois dominated the first half, building a 21-point lead with 3:37 remaining. The Huskies led 38-19 at halftime. A meager 20 percent shooting from the field combined with turnovers and foul trouble were the reasons for the Cardinals' lack of offense in the half.
For the game, the Cardinals had 25 fouls, committed 25 turnovers and had only seven steals compared to the Huskies' 19.
"When you're in somebody else's building, you've got to be able to mentally push back, be assertive on the very next play," Packard said.
After scoring a career-high 33 points against Western Michigan, senior guard Ty'Ronda Benning led Ball State with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but she also committed a team-high nine turnovers.
It was an all-around struggle for senior forward Emily Maggert. She finished with seven points, converting just two of her 12 field goal attempts.
"She didn't want the physical play," Packard said. "She simply didn't want [it]. As much as they bumped her, instead of going toward the basket, she was actually retreating."
Mental preparation was key for Ball State coming into the game, but Packard said the aggressive play from the Huskies caused the Cardinals to panic.
"It's such a phase of mental preparation and the response to very physical play when you're on the road," Packard said. "We weren't ready for [it]."