WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State encouraged by improvement after loss to Bowling Green

The Cardinals lost by four points to the Falcons GÇö the MAC leaders and perrenial MAC favorites

The latest setback for Ball State University, Sunday's 80-76 loss to Bowling Green State University, goes down as a loss in the record book.

But as the Cardinals have likely been eliminated from winning the Mid-American Conference West division, it largely doesn't matter.

That doesn't mean coach Kelly Packard or the Ball State University women's basketball team doesn't care.

"Am I disappointed in this loss?" Packard said with a hint of a smile on her face after another close loss. "Just barely."

In fact, it's just the opposite. The Cardinals are willing to accept losses in order to right the ship for when it matters most: the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Sunday's loss was Ball State's (9-14, 3-7 MAC) sixth in a row. A conference losing streak of this magnitude has not been seen since the 2003-04 season.

"I'm really, really proud of this team. ... They've made some choices over the last 10 days to unify, to believe in what we're doing, for the staff to give them more tools to be successful. And just get there together," Packard said. "It's really important, and I couldn't be more sincere about it. We're going to win more games."

Bowling Green (19-5, 9-1), the MAC leaders, were the latest team to take advantage of Ball State's struggles. The Falcons did so with a barrage of 3-pointers and tremendous precision and efficiency at the free-throw line.

"We had a choice. We could fold and just give up on the year," guard Audrey McDonald said. "Nobody expects us to win anymore. I mean, just ask anyone on campus. They don't expect us to win. Or we can pull together and say, ‘We're going to get better and we're going to play well when it counts most, down the stretch and be the best team we can be come tournament time.'"

Bowling Green sank 11 3-pointers in the game, six coming from Lauren Prochaska. Prochaska recorded 26 points to lead the Falcons. Tamika Nurse had 15 points and Tara Breske chipped in 13.

Ball State outscored Bowling Green 36-18 in the paint but was unable to overcome the Falcons at the line and beyond the arc. The Cardinals went 5-for-15 from downtown, with four of the 3-pointers belonging to McDonald.

The two teams exchanged the lead six times in the first half. Ball State came out on top at the break after McDonald drilled a 3-pointer and Emily Maggert notched two of her career-high 28 points in the final seconds before halftime.

"We've been talking about how everyone needs to become more emotional as leaders — just getting hyped after people make shots or create a turnover," Maggert said. "The little things matter, so we're trying to get more emotional and fired up when we make plays."

The Cardinals continued their run coming out of the locker room, taking a 44-33 lead two minutes into the second half.

Bowling Green never panicked and they responded, eventually taking the lead off a Nurse 3-pointer. After taking a 48-46 lead, the Falcons pulled away, making free throws and 3-pointers to keep the Cardinals at bay.

Ball State was not finished, however. The Cardinals made a couple runs at the Falcons as a Maggert layup pulled Ball State within three, 63-60, with 5:18 remaining.

The Falcons edged away again before another Cardinal run concluded with a McDonald trey to pull within two. This run was helped by Mercedes Miller, Jade Barber and Shanee' Jackson applying a full-court press that troubled the Falcons.

"They made the decision as a team to stay unified, so as a staff we're trying to bring tools for them to be successful with. The unification is making sure everyone on the team has a role," Packard said. "Even if it's a smaller role. Even if it's to come in, try to get a steal, get your part done and let our starters come back in and score. Everybody matters."

In the end, it wasn't enough. Bowling Green hit free throws down the stretch, finishing 21-for-26 from the stripe, to secure the victory.

"We're not done," Packard said. "As long as this team sees our staff say ‘let's try this' and we have success, they're going to gain confidence. You're going to see more of that."
Ball State looks to snap the losing streak Wednesday against the University at Buffalo at Worthen Arena.


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