Sometimes it pays to be bigger, faster, stronger and deeper. That was the difference Friday night at Worthen Arena between the Ball State University women's basketball team (8-8, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (3-16), as the Cardinals came out on top, 64-40.
"The number one thing I value from tonight was the game experience we were able to get for a lot of the youth in our program," coach Kelly Packard said. "We're a young team. We have two seniors. The opportunity to allow them to grow in the confidence in a game and reward the efforts they put in practice is important."
The Cardinals outmatched the Cougars, a team transitioning to Division I, in most major statistical categories. Despite being out-gunned and out-manned, the nine-player roster of the Cougars played scrappy and hard all night.
Ball State hit their first three shots for a quick start. In fact, the Cardinals began with seven straight buckets, opening the game on a 19-0 run. Junior forward Emily Maggert scored six of her nine first-half points in the first 3:30, looking nearly unstoppable offensively.
"It was a lot easier for the guards to shoot the ball. Shannon [Klei] had a good shooting night tonight," Maggert said. "You always feel confident when you make your first couple shots."
From start to finish, Ball State held control of the game, but there were times when its turnover-prone personality made appearances. In all, the Cardinals tallied 12 turnovers on the night.
SIU-Edwardsville parlayed an intense effort into a good night on the boards. The Cougars outrebounded the Cardinals 35-32 and registered 11 second chance points.
The story of the night could be how well the bench played for the Cardinals, scoring 30 points. Junior guard Shannon Klei, returning from an injury, played 18 minutes and made use of her time. The guard nailed three treys to finish second in scoring for Ball State with nine points.
"It felt good to come in and take the shot," Klei said. "It's a big confidence booster for me, even though I'm still dealing with injuries, to get on the ball and go through the steps."
Eleven Cardinals played and scored against the Cougars. Junior Ty'Ronda Benning led the team in minutes played with 28, scoring two points and dishing two assists.
"I like playing at home. John E. [Worthen Arena] has always treated us well," Klei said. "I think we feel a lot more comfortable where we're playing. I like being here a lot."
Friday night's game could be considered a tune-up for Sunday. MAC West Division rival and preseason favorite University of Toledo (13-3, 3-0 MAC) comes to Muncie Sunday for a critical conference game.