Mat Mikesell

Despite blowing a 20-point lead, Ball State held off a Western Michigan second half rally to get a 67-60 win, its first in the Mid-American Conference this season.

Coach Kelly Packard said her team was able to win because of senior guard Ty'Ronda Benning's quick start in the first half.

Benning scored the first 10 points for the Cardinals and finished the game with a career-high 33 points.

"From the moment [Benning] took off, she gave us confidence and we followed," Packard said. "We're not going to win games by large margins this year."

Packard said she sent Benning a text message before the game saying she wanted to bring energy to the game. After the game, Packard said Benning would be receiving a text message from her before every game.

"Coach texted me today ‘have energy,'" Benning said. "When I get the ball, I think to push the ball for my teammates to score or get a lay-up. They sagged off me a few times on the three point line, so I shot it."

Senior forward Emily Maggert benefitted from Benning's scoring night because the Western Michigan defensive focus went away from her.

"When someone gets hot like [Benning] did tonight and scores 33 points, people are going to have to guard her," Maggert said. "More people are going to be focused on her and it leaves other people open."

Maggert finished the game with 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. She also moved into fourth place on the Ball State all-time scoring list.

The Cardinals led 53-33 at the 11:43 mark in the second half, but the Broncos used pressure to force turnovers to cut the lead to 63-60 with under a minute to play.

"I knew they were going to come at us hard," Packard said. "They're an improved team. They weren't going to shoot poorly as they did. We're still going to have to continually work at pressured situations and our decisions within those."

In the second half, Western Michigan's Taylor Manley scored 17 points to fuel the rally.

Western Michigan had possession with 30 seconds left in the game when Ball State freshman Jazmin Hitchens came up with a block and a steal that ended any chance for Western Michigan.

Ball State finished the game with 22 turnovers but shot 56 percent from the field and from the 3-point range.

Western Michigan committed 14 turnovers but shot 35 percent from the field.

The win gave Ball State its first win of 2011 and in the MAC. The Cardinals will try to move to .500 in the MAC on Saturday against Central Michigan.