Bench play has began to contribute more for the women's basketball team. The Cardinals have averaged 25.5 points off the bench in the last four games, compared to scoring 7 total in the first two.

After Ball State’s 94-45 victory over Ohio Valley University, head coach Brady Sallee said the Cardinals bench has improved since the start of the season.

“Here over the last three or four games, [the bench] has started to turn that corner," Sallee said. "I think they’re getting comfortable in their role. I think they’re understanding what we need from them in the game.”

At least four bench players have played 10 or more minutes in three of the last four games. In the first two games, no more than three players topped that benchmark. Only senior forward Shelby Merder surpassed the 10-minute mark in Ball State’s home-opening 74-60 win against Western Kentucky.

Sallee said going to the end of the bench is ideal, as evident by 33 bench points against Ohio Valley and 32 in the Cardinals’ 85-79 loss to 6-1 Florida.

“The deeper we go, the better we’re gonna be,” Sallee said. “That’s big for us to see those numbers.”

Against Ohio Valley, 10 different Cardinals logged at least 10 minutes of playing time and none of the players saw more than 30 minutes.

Sophomore guard Frannie Frazier is shooting .550 from the field and averaging 11.5 minutes off the bench. 

Sallee is convinced that the team’s trip to the Omni Hotels Classic in Boulder, Colorado was a turning point for Frazier.

“She’s been doing that now since we were in Colorado. Maybe the high altitude triggered something in there, and she didn’t know we came back to Indiana, but I like the way she’s playing,” Sallee said.

During the trip, the Cardinals dropped the game against Florida and beat the University of Massachusetts 81-54. In that game, Frazier was a perfect 6-6 from the floor and 4-4 from the line. 

She contributes the success to playing with a clearer head. 

“[Sallee is] always telling me: don’t think, just play,” Frazier said. “I don’t get paid to do that.”

Freshman forward Lucia Fernandez is another example of a bench player that has seen improvement.

“[Fernandez] is just somebody that, she’s just got a nose for the ball,” Sallee said. “She’s always around it, goes and get boards … gets some rolls that way.”

Fernandez was second on the team with 16 points against Ohio Valley and led Ball State with nine rebounds in the win.

Against the Fighting Scots, Sallee said he was happy to see Frazier draw a charging call late in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand and that every player – both bench players and starters – is expected to do the same, regardless of situation.

“The charge [Frazier] took late, well, that’s who we are and what we do," he said. "Whether we’re up 40 or down 40, whether it’s against Ohio Valley or Florida, we make those plays.”