Junior forward Nathalie Fontaine goes for a shot during the game against Eastern Michigan on Feb. 25 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO AMER KHUBRANI
Ball State women's basketball defeats in-state rival Butler 58-50
Ball State women’s basketball team (5-2) runs a Swedish word of the day on Worthen Arena’s video boards in honor of Stockholm native Nathalie Fontaine at its home games.
In the team's 58-50 win against Butler University (4-4), that word was godis – candy.
The Dec. 6 word was fitting because the senior guard's double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds helped the Cardinals get sweet revenge for last season’s 48-41 road loss to the Bulldogs.
Fontaine's performance moved her into fourth all-time in Cardinal scoring with 1,645 career points, passing Johna Goff, who had 1,635. She is also seventh on the list in rebounding in 721.
“[The Bulldogs] did a good job. I didn’t see them half of the time coming from behind,” Fontaine said. “I probably got blocked like six times but just [kept] going. You can’t stop doing what you do just because they try to take it away or because you get blocked. You gotta keep just playing through it, and at the end it’ll pay off.”
Fontaine also scored the go-ahead points with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws, 41-40. She said every point was hard-earned.
Butler’s defense held the Cardinals, who entered the game ranked 40th in the nation with 77.7 points per game, to just 58 points and 29.4 percent from the floor.
Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said his team pulled out the win because its defense played even better despite the offensive struggles.
“As good as we can be on offense, … we looked like a JV squad on the [offensive] end today,” Sallee said. “We won the game on the defensive end because we were willing to hit the floor and we were willing to take the charges. … If that’s going to be our identity, then we’re going to have a whale of a year.”
Butler shot 30.4 percent from the floor, which dropped down to 25 percent in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Ball State outscored the Bulldogs 26-13 to come back from a 37-32 deficit.
The Cardinals trailed at halftime 25-21. Sallee said his biggest halftime adjustment was turning up the intensity and toughness.
“Instead of just using my right foot to kick us in the hind end, I used both feet,” Sallee said. “It was one of those kind of games where they were gonna come out and really physically try to keep us from coming off of screens, setting screens, getting to the post where we wanted to — they were just gonna make everything really difficult.”
Ball State struggled from long range, especially in the first half. Just one of its 11 first-half 3-point attempts went in after entering the game shooting 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Jill Morrison sank just one of her six first-half attempts — in her first six games, 44.4 percent of her three point shots fell — though she finished the game with 11 points.
Starting freshman point guard Carmen Grande started the game missing eight consecutive shots from the floor, but with 1:26 left in the game she hit her first shot of the game to increase the Cardinals' lead to 54-47.
Grande said she was confident despite not making a shot until the fourth quarter.
“Well you have to shoot every shot thinking that it’s going in,” Grande said. “I knew [the defender] was going under, so I knew I had my time to shoot.”
Grande’s nine rebounds were second on the team, and overall the Cardinals out-rebounded Butler 51-39. The rebounds helped Ball State total 19 second-chance points to the Bulldogs’ nine.
Sallee, however, said his team should not get complacent.
“These early-season wins are only worth what you make out of it,” Sallee said. “They’re only worth what you learn out of them. If these girls ever get content, we’re gonna be in trouble. They’ve gotta see this game not for the win, but for the good things we did and the bad things. And we’ve gotta get those things eliminated.”
Ball State’s next home game will be over Winter Break when it hosts St. Louis University at 7 p.m. Dec. 28.