Sophomore guard Carmen Grande brings the ball up the court during the game against Central Michigan University on Feb. 25 at Worthen Arena. Ball State won the game 81-73. Emma Rogers // DN
Defense key in Ball State women's basketball victory over Central Michigan
Not even the second-best team in the country held Central Michigan to fewer first-quarter points than Ball State women's basketball did Saturday.
Ball State limited Central Michigan to just 6 first-quarter points in its 81-73 victory Saturday. The Chippewas' previous season low was 9 points scored in the first quarter of their 107-47 loss to then-No. 1 Notre Dame, currently ranked second in the RPI rankings.
Ball State’s defense swarmed Central Michigan’s offense, forcing two shot clock violations in the Chippewas’ first four possessions. Central Michigan was limited to 3-for-15 shooting and 0-for-4 from behind the arc.
Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said he was impressed by his team’s early defensive performance.
“Our kids were able to settle in with the hot start and it was just that ‘Yeah, let’s keep doing this mindset,'” Sallee said. “We talked about it in a couple timeouts. Central Michigan is a good team and we were expecting a run, and we just keep talking about what we have to do when that run happens to stop it. ”
Central Michigan won the last meeting 101-92 on Jan. 11 behind 43 points from sophomore guard Presley Hudson. On Saturday, with Ball State sophomore point guard Carmen Grande primarily defending her, Hudson was held to just 4 points.
“Hudson has had such a great year,” Sallee said. “[Grande] executed [the game plan] great.”
In the previous meeting, Central Michigan shot 60.7 percent on three-pointers and 58.1 percent overall. In Ball State’s victory, however, the Cardinals held the Chippewas to 45.9 percent from the field and 45.5 percent behind the arc.
Central Michigan didn't hit a 3-pointer for the first 11 minutes, and though it closed the gap by shooting 6-for-7 from three in the third quarter, was limited to 2-of-7 from three in the fourth quarter.
The Chippewas pulled within one point, 72-71, but the Cardinals were up to the challenge, finishing the game on a 11-2 run which included a massive block by junior Frannie Frazier when the Cardinals held just a four-point edge with 0:20 left in the game.
Ball State also made the most of its 11 forced turnovers, outscoring Central Michigan 17-2 on points off turnovers, which played a large part in the victory.
“[Points off turnovers], that’s a huge stat,” Sallee said. “You start looking at those points in the paint, we go plus-12, points off turnovers, we go plus-15, second chance points we go plus-8, it [creates] a recipe for wins.”
The win ties Ball State for first place in the MAC, and the Cardinals will be back in action Wednesday to play Eastern Michigan on the road.