Cardinals hit the road for MAC opener

Women's basketball takes on Northern Illinois tonight.

Last year the women's basketball team was one of the most veteran teams in the league while Northern Illinois was just getting its feet wet. Now, one year later, the tables have turned as the Huskies are looking for revenge from last year's 20-point loss in the Mid-American Conference Tournament when the two schools face off tonight in the MAC opener for both schools.

Having only one senior, Ball State head coach Tracy Roller said she expects her upperclassmen to set the standard for the up-and-coming players on the team. Junior guard Johna Goff, coming off a concussion over Christmas break, is one of the main leaders Roller is looking to.

"We're so young that a lot of the team doesn't know what the MAC means," Goff said. "We upperclassmen have to pick it up and we have to show them that we have to win games now or we're not going to be in it in the end."

As good as Ball State's (6-4) offense has been this year, averaging more than 80 points per game; Northern (4-7) is just as good on the defensive end. The Huskies are giving up little more than 63 points a game, best in the MAC. Roller said that managing the offensive end and taking care of the ball is key for a Cardinal squad that has committed more than 20 turnovers in the last three games.

"Northern is just so good defensively we can't give up anything," Roller said. "We can't afford to come down and turn the ball over like we've been doing because they're not going to give us many chances. Every possession is going to count."

Both teams lost to Kansas State by about the same margin and each beat Wisconsin by one basket. The difference is how the two schools played in those games. Ball State used its common "I can score more than you" approach, while Northern used its "You can't score enough to win" mentality.

Northern's main offensive threat comes from junior post player Jennifer Youngblood, a preseason First Team All-MAC selection this year. She is averaging more than 14 points per contest and scored 20 against the Cardinals in last year's tournament game. Roller has emphasized throughout the season that the team needs to step it up on defense in the post, where the majority of the task lies with senior Tamara Bowie and junior Jessica Reiter.

Roller also said the key is going to be matching the intensity of the aggressive Huskie squad, something the team struggled with in their last game against Chicago State.

"No matter what it says on the scouting report about Northern, they play so hard all the time," Goff said. "If we don't out-work them, then we're going to lose the game."


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