Senior forward Nathalie Fontaine goes up for a lay up during the game against Western Kentucky on Nov. 19 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO KORINA VALENZUELA
Ball State women's basketball tops Western Kentucky in home opener, 74-60
Ball State's women’s basketball team (1-1) topped Western Kentucky (0-1) 74-60 in its home opener, behind senior Nathalie Fontaine’s 30-point performance.
Fontaine scored 24 of those points in the second half.
“Listen, I’ve got a problem,” she said. “I want the ball all the time.”
Field goal percentage - 42.6% (23-54)
3-point field goals - 40% (6-15)
3-point field goals against - 25.8% (8-31)
Free Throws - 91.7% (22-24)
Second-half free throws - 95.4% (21-22)
Fontaine tied her career high – set against Buffalo on Jan. 26, 2014 – while also leading the Cardinals with 12 rebounds. As a team, Ball State out-rebounded the Lady Toppers, 40-36, and scored 19 second-chance points to Western Kentucky’s seven.
Head coach Brady Sallee said the rebounds were a key part of the victory, especially in the second half.
“We quit going up like we were afraid of spillin’ our cookies,” he said. “We started going up like real players.”
In the first half, the Cardinals were out-rebounded 17-13, including eight offensive rebounds on 16 missed shots. Sallee said he was furious when the team went in at halftime.
“I lit ‘em up pretty good at halftime,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s what changed it, but I think it’s been there, done that. ... Once we figured out that we got popped in the chin, we weren’t going to fall down.”
In the fourth quarter, junior center Renee Bennett cut her chin after being fouled on a fast-break with 7:42 remaining. She stayed in the game, but junior Caylin Hosea was not so lucky as she clattered to the hardwood after a run-in with a Western Kentucky defender. She was soon attended to by the trainers.
Sallee expected a tough game from the defending Conference USA champions.
“Conference USA is a big, physical, athletic league,” he said. “We had to answer that bell, or we were gonna get run out of here.”
Ball State took advantage of Western Kentucky’s physicality by sinking 22 of its 24 free throw attempts. Fontaine was a perfect 12-12 and junior Jill Morrison was 6-6.
When asked about his team’s ability from the line, Sallee couldn’t resist a joke as he playfully knocked on Morrison's forehead.
“Can I knock on wood?” Sallee said. “We shot free-throws well all preseason … but you’re gonna have numbers like this when the right people are getting to the line.”
Western Kentucky led after the first quarter, 20-16, and opened the second with a 13-2 run.
Sallee tried to end the run with Bennett, sophomore Moriah Monaco and freshman Carmen Grande with 8:09 left in the quarter. Senior Shelby Merder and sophomores Frannie Frazier and Brionna Simond came in for a line-change that seemed to fit in well with the pep band’s hockey-style jerseys.
The attempt was unsuccessful as the Lady Toppers added six more unanswered points to complete the run.
When the starters returned to the court with 4:59 remaining in the half, Ball State started a 13-2 run to shrink Western Kentucky’s lead to just four points, 35-31.
Morrison finished the game with 15 points, including three three-pointers, behind only Fontaine and Monaco, who scored 18 and hauled in seven rebounds.
Sallee said beating the Lady Toppers, who finished 30-5 last season with an NCAA tournament berth, was a “big-time win” but the Cardinals need to build on it.
“This is only a beginning,” he said. “If we don’t get better and build on it from here, this win doesn’t mean anything.”
The women's basketball team will return home on Nov. 23 against Austin Peay. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.