If there ever was a crucial measuring stick game for the Ball State University women's basketball team, it'll be today's showdown with the University of Toledo.
"On our end, we have to manage the ball on offense — take good care of it and make good decisions," coach Kelly Packard said. "Defensively is where we've really got to begin to rise. We're going to be able to score. We've shown that. It's going to be about subtracting scoring opportunities from [Toledo]."
For Ball State (8-8, 2-1 MAC), on the other hand, it has been an up and down season. The Cardinals are coming off a dominating win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Friday night. In the win, all 11 active roster members played and scored.
Toledo (13-3, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) enters today's game as the favorite. The Rockets were picked the preseason favorite in the MAC and have flexed their muscle this season. Their big win this season was over No. 20 University of Dayton. Toledo enters the contest on a five-game winning streak.
And unfortunately for the Cardinals, Toledo's offense has been flying high recently. The Rockets have posted five straight games of 70-plus point outputs. This is a problem for Ball State because its defense has struggled of late, giving up 87 points to Central Michigan University in a loss earlier in the week.
Ball State's best chance to pull off the upset would be to play a defensive game, keeping the final score down. All three of Toledo's losses came when they scored 65 points or less; the Rockets are 11-0 when scoring over 65 points.
"We know what we need to know," Packard said. "They have the same starting lineup as they had last year. They're just more experienced. Nothing we have to do to slow them down is tricky. They're just really disciplined at what they do right now."
In contrast to Toledo's experience, Ball State plays only two seniors, Audrey McDonald and Danielle Gratton. Both McDonald and Gratton are averaging in double digits this season.
Offensively, the Cardinals are led by junior Emily Maggert. Maggert averages 18.3 points and 10.8 boards per game and could be a MAC Player of the Year candidate.
"From a skill set and statistical standpoint, Emily is very capable of winning the award," Packard said. "Realistically though, we're going to have to contend for the title."
A win over a strong, veteran, confident Toledo squad will go a long way for Ball State. Not only would a win propel the Cardinals over .500 for the season, but it would put them into a first place tie in the MAC West Division standings.