Senior guard Shelbie Justice goes up for a shot during the game against Bowling Green on Feb. 14 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Ball State prepares for MAC Tournament semifinals as No. 2 seed
Winners of seven out of its last nine games, the Ball State women's basketball team is preparing for its semifinal game in the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Friday.
With a regular season record of 17-12 and 13-5 in the MAC, the Cardinals clinched the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and earned a triple-bye.
While Ball State earned some extra rest, head coach Brady Sallee said his team is prepared for what is to come.
MAC Tournament Semifinal Games
No. 5 Western Michigan/No. 4 Buffalo vs. No. 1 Ohio - 12 p.m.
No. 6 Eastern Michigan/No. 3 Akron vs. No. 2 Ball State - 2:30 p.m.
"We only have three players who haven't experienced what it's like to play in the conference tournament," Sallee said. "So we feel the case now is that we have been there and we want to be there again."
Senior Shelbie Justice and junior Nathalie Fontaine are the two remaining players from the team two years ago that also earned the second seed in the tournament. But Ball State fell to Akron 70-61 in its first tournament game.
Last season, the Cardinals were the fifth seed and played from the first day of the tournament, fighting their way to the championship game before falling to Akron 71-68. It was the second consecutive year the Cardinals missed the NCAA Tournament and had to settle for the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
However, the team knows it's two wins away from a MAC title and a coveted birth into the NCAA Tournament.
"It's a good spot," Justice said. "We can't overlook it."
Until Friday, the Cardinals will wait to discover their opponent for the upcoming semifinals.
Akron, the No. 3 seed, is one of the quarterfinal teams that Ball State could face. The Cardinals beat the defending MAC champions earlier in the season in a close game, 77-73.
Ball State could also play No. 6 Eastern Michigan, a team it split regular season matchups with and is currently on a six-game winning streak since defeating the Cardinals.
Sallee said his team will have to adjust if they want to win on Friday and advance to the championship game on Saturday.
"We've always known who we would play and have been able to prepare separately for them," Sallee said. "So we are just going to have to practice and be ready for whoever comes at us."
Ball State's semifinal game will begin at about 2:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It will follow the first game between Ohio and Buffalo/Western Michigan.
"We just have to take it day by day to prepare until we get to Cleveland," Justice said.