Tyler Poslosky

Coach Kelly Packard arrived in Muncie on Sunday night with a sour taste in her mouth. Just hours prior, she watched her team drop its first road Mid-American Conference game this season, a 76-64 defeat at Western Michigan, and its fourth loss in its last five games.

Sunday's game was decided by the Cardinals' (6-9, 1-1) inability to rebound the basketball and a defensive breakdown in the second half. The combination didn't bode well with Packard, who said her team's play has to be better.

"It's kind of been a drum I've been beating and will continue to beat throughout the rest of the season," Packard said. "When we rebound well, we usually position to win at the finish line. That's a theme for us. We've responded to my plea for rebounding at certain times, certainly against Eastern Michigan. [They] outrebounded us by one, but that's a team that outrebounds their opponents by eight. I said to our girls today that rebounding is a season specific topic. We can't win if we don't rebound the ball."

The Cardinals shot just less than 37 percent from the field, but were outrebounded by 12 against the Broncos. Packard said her team got away from the basics.

"It's a mentality," Packard said. "We've covered and recovered and watched film and critiqued. Rebounding, once you know how to position, which we do, is a mentality and it's a commitment. We shot the ball well and quit going to the glass."

Its latest loss capped a tough stretch for the Cardinals, which featured just one win, a 54-51 triumph over Eastern Michigan on Thursday in the MAC opener.

But that was the lone highlight from the handful of games for the Cardinals.

The frustration began when Valparaiso came to Muncie on Dec. 18. The visitors were just 3-7 at the time and the game looked to be a confidence booster for the Cardinals. The results were the exact opposite. The Cardinals were held to just 18 second-half points, resulting in a 67-53 loss on their home floor.

Arguably the toughest opponent on the schedule was next for the Cardinals in No. 17 Wisconsin-Green Bay. The young, inexperienced Cardinals proved to be no match for the Phoenix, who coasted to an 80-39 victory.

Perhaps the most disappointing outing for the Ball State over the break was against Marshall on New Year's Eve. The Thundering Herd clung to a two-point victory, further adding to the list of frustrations for the Cardinals.

"That's a team that came in here 8-3, playing some good basketball," Packard said. "We were up nine in the second half and we don't hold on to win. It came down to two core categories; giving up too many offensive rebounds and having a chance to tuck it away at the free throw line."

Rebounding has been a reoccurring theme of Packard's this season. The Cardinals were outrebounded in all five games over the break, which played a role in their four losses.

With a few days off before her team hosts Northern Illinois on Wednesday, Packard reverted to her group of players as "a young team all over the place because of the inconsistencies."

Packard said she has been attempting to resolve her team's flaws, but it's been a difficult process for her and the rest of the coaching staff.

"Those are things that come and go with a young team," Packard said. "Those are pieces that if we could just connect the dots, we could win some games. That's just the part for me right now that's really a tough swallow. Having a five [position] player perform for me has been a mystery. That aspect has been tough."

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