Matt McKinney

Hundreds of Ball State fans came out to the John E. Worthen Arena to see their team face off against Murray State, but stayed to watch sophomore Jazmin Hitchens set a new career-high Saturday afternoon with 22 points.

However, she will have to share the spotlight with her head coach Kelly Packard as Packard earned her 50th career win with the 81-72 win over the Racers, the Cardinals' first win of this season..

Hitchens has now led the team in scoring in two straight games after coming back from a suspension for breaking team rules on November 16.

"Those two games were hard. I just wanted to stay positive and show my team that I sat out for a reason and gain my respect back by showing how hard I can play and what I can do for the team," Hitchens said.

"[Hitchens] just does so much. She's long, she's active, she's quick," Packard said. "She probably saved us in our press break at times because she has the ability to not only flash up in a post role but to handle the ball. She's just difficult because she's so versatile in any matchup and going nine-for-twelve – those numbers are outstanding."

Hitchens showed that length and athleticism at the 12-minute mark when Murray State's Erica Burgess tried to pass from midcourt. Hitchens hit the ball up into the air, past Burgess' head, then used all of her 6'1 frame to snatch the ball out of the air for the Ball State takeaway.

Although Hitchens also set a career high in field goal percentage as she went 9-12 from the floor, the actual points that set her new career high were free throws.

Hitchens once again showed her length again late in the game as the Racer's Mariah Robinson put up a three-pointer to bring the Cardinals' lead to single digits. Hitchens slid over to defend Robinson, stretched out her arms and got enough on the ball to keep it from going anywhere near the hoop.

"I've had a lot of growing to do as Coach P would say I was in my caterpillar stage, and now I'm starting to get closer to the butterfly," Hitchens said. "But it's a lot of growing you have to do in order to take steps to be successful and help the team out and the more successful you want to be, the more growth you'll go through."

The Cardinals try for their first winning streak of the season Monday night against Oakland City.

If Hitchens continues her recent play, it won't be long before Packard has a fully-grown butterfly on her hands.