WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Cards lose home opener in final seconds

In the chaos there was calm for a split-second, then an eruption. Danielle Gratton had single-handedly turned the tide. Gratton positioned herself under the basket and drew a charge with just over a minute to go with the game still very much in doubt.

Trailing by one, 58-59 with the ball and 1:05 on the clock, Ball State (0-2) got a great look at the basket. Senior Audrey McDonald got the ball on the left wing and put up a shot. The ball went halfway down and then popped back out.

"Offensively I thought we had some real good looks. I know I did," McDonald  said.  "I just didn't finish. Offensively things have come along. We still have to get the ball inside more, but we had looks. We just didn't finish."

Madness ensued. Bodies hit the floor and the ball was loose. Western Kentucky University (2-0) came out of the scramble with the ball. Moments later, the air left Worthen Arena in a collective gasp. It wasn't a shot but rather Gratton was injured attempting to foul.

A pair of Lady Hilltopper free-throws made it a 61-58 advantage with five seconds left. After a timeout, the Cardinals had one final chance, but Patrice King's shot from three was shot and that was it.

"We haven't secured our point guard spot," coach Kelly Packard said. "I don't think our guards are getting good depths down the sides to make good entry passes. I think some of their development is they're just not seeing what's open when it's open."

On several occasions turnovers were committed from pushing the ball down the court too fast, throwing a bad pass, making a pass a second too slow.

"It's frustrating knowing we need to rebound and take ownership. We still haven't done that yet,"  Maggert said. "I'd rather be winning than having a double-double like tonight. Numbers don't matter to me as long as we win."

The two teams started the night trading the lead multiple times. McDonald hit three treys early to notch nine of her 11 total points on the night. Maggert chipped in an assist to stop a 12-2 run by the Lady Hilltoppers coming out of the locker room, giving the Cardinals a chance to fight back in it.

Several times throughout the course of the game the Cardinals had their opportunities to seize control and extend a two point lead, but every time they took the lead the Lady Hilltoppers responded to regain the edge. Second and third chance points helped Western Kentucky on multiple occasions to regain the lead.

"If there's anything that makes me toss and turn at night it's wondering if we're going to be committed to rebounding the basketball," Packard said. "Not tremendously committed in getting position to get a rebound on either end of the floor. It's a very clear statement that rebounding cost us this game."

Western Kentucky out-rebounded Ball State 43-41. The Cardinals had a 23-14 edge on the glass at the half.

In the end, 22 points from Maggert, 11 from McDonald, 10 from King, and nine from Gratton weren't enough to overcome a balanced Western Kentucky attack. Maggert finished with a double-double, notching 11 boards to go with her 22 points.

"Obviously we have a lot of work to do. We're going to be fine. It's a growing period; we're going to get through it," McDonald said.

Gratton, who went down with 9.2 seconds on the clock giving a foul to stop the clock, left the court in obvious pain, unable to walk off the court without assistance. Her injury and status was unknown after the game.