WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State eyes its first win on the road
Evansville forward presents match-up problems for Cards
On the heels of its second consecutive victory, Ball State hits the road in search of its first road win of the season in a 6:15 p.m. tipoff against non-conference foe Evansville at the Ford Center.
After a lengthy holiday break, the Cardinals (2-3) are well rested and prepared for a tough contest. Coach Kelly Packard is confident in her team's ability to come away with a win.
"We took three days off and we've come back and [practiced for three days]," Packard said. "I feel like it's a rare opportunity to grab some rest. We're also healthy, which is huge right now. Being able to take the confidence we've gained these last two games and having that translate on the road into somebody else's arena [is key]."
The Cardinals, who have won two of the last three games against the Purple Aces, are entering the uncharted territory of winning on the road. Dating back to last season, the Cardinals are winless in their last 14 road games.
Securing victories away from Worthen Arena is one of the toughest things to accomplish, Packard said. Having the right mindset from the get go is crucial, but when you have an extremely young team, the challenge becomes more taxing, she said.
"Being in somebody else's building and creating your own energy, there's some mental process to that, readiness of the mind that has to with the preparation on the court to be able to get out quickly," Packard said. "It's really tough to get down early and [then] being able to come back."
One player Packard considers a main concern is Evansville junior Samantha Heck. At 6-foot-2, Heck has seen time at both the forward and center positions for the Purple Aces under first-year coach Oties Epps.
Heck, who leads the Purple Aces with 54 points on the season, presents a challenge in the post, especially with her average of five rebounds per game.
"She's a bigger player with perimeter abilities," Packard said. "She's able to shoot the 3. She can also put the ball on the floor. She's able to create a counter move in the post, and so we've worked on post defense and being ready for her. I think she presents a really difficult match-up for us."
Though Heck could prove to be a tough task, the Cardinals have had a good amount of success on the boards this season. Their plus-9.4 rebounding margin mirrors one of Packard's core values of her coaching strategy.
"It's a fundamental category of the game," Packard said. "I've got to be able to count on rebounding night in and night out. Whether it's offensive rebounds and bring able to convert them or simply just limiting the number of second chances an opponent gets."