WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State hosts Buffalo still optimistic for 1st win in more than 3 weeks

Cards will have to deal with Bulls' intensity on the boards

The fact that there is still optimism, belief and hope surrounding the locker room could be a testament to the mental toughness of the Ball State University women's basketball team.

In a time where there is little sunshine over the program, there has been no quit or give up in the team.

"Nobody expects us to win anymore. I mean you can talk to anyone on campus. They don't expect us to win," senior guard Audrey McDonald said. "We're going to play well down the stretch and be the best team we can be come tournament time. I think as a group we decided that we're going to get better."

This optimism comes despite a six-game Mid-American Conference skid, a losing record overall, problems with rebounding and defense and, perhaps most significantly, low confidence, coach Kelly Packard said.

"We had to tackle a lack of confidence. We had lost some confidence after we lost here to Akron in overtime and it's been a tough swallow," Packard said. "We've regained some confidence and made some wonderful choices about who we are, why we're doing what we're doing."

Tonight, Ball State (9-14, 3-7 MAC) hosts the University at Buffalo (7-16, 3-7 MAC), hoping the Bulls can become their first victory since defeating MAC West-leading University of Toledo on Jan. 17.

Buffalo scores 64.3 points per game, ranking it ninth in the MAC. But Kourtney Brown has again proven herself as one of the top all-around players in the MAC this season, and has turned up her game in conference play.

Brown ranks third in the MAC in conference game scoring at 20.2 points per game and also leads the MAC in rebounding with 11.9 boards per contest.

Packard said the key to stopping Brown and Buffalo is making the visiting team uncomfortable on the Worthen Arena court.

"We're trying to do things that are going to give us some more aggressiveness. Things that are difficult for an offense to identify right away, trying to force them to take some shots they don't want to take and to hurry them," Packard said. "We want to make them constantly trying to identify what we're doing defensively. We had a decent amount of success at that in the first half [against Bowling Green] and we haven't worked on it that much. Just wait until we do."

On several occasions in Saturday's loss to Bowling Green State University, Packard substituted Mercedes Miller, Jade Barber, Patrice King and Shanee' Jackson into the lineup and applied a full-court press.

Packard said she expects to use more of this strategy and made it clear that everyone will have a role moving forward throughout the final portion of the schedule.

A key matchup in tonight's game could be the battle of the boards. Buffalo pulls down 40 rebounds a game while giving up 36 rebounds. This ranks it in the top-tier of the MAC on the glass at third offensively, fourth defensively.

The battle between a pair of 3-7 teams in the MAC is crucial in the race to host an opening round game of the MAC Tournament. The winner of tonight's game could take a step in securing that goal.

"We're going to win some more games," Packard said. "We're not done."