WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State plays host to Eastern Michigan with renewed confidence

Cardinals optimistic about rest of season after snapping 6-game losing streak Wednesday

Nothing does more for a change of outlook and confidence than getting a win.

With a victory Wednesday night over Mid-American Conference foe University at Buffalo, the Ball State University women's basketball team got the gorilla off their back, snapping its six-game losing streak.

There is no rest for the weary though, according to coach Kelly Packard. The Cardinals (10-14, 4-7) return to the hardwood today to play host to Eastern Michigan University (17-6, 7-4).

"I'm very proud of the way this team stayed unified," Packard said. "I chose to address our losing streak by nurturing them and to be very affirmative about who they are as people and their talents. Everything is going to come easier now."

Packard believes after picking up that first win in seven contests, the Cardinals now won't be hesitant when shooting and will be more confident.

It was, after all, the Eagles that started the downward spiral for the Cardinals after Ball State upended the University of Toledo Jan. 17.

Ball State hung around all night long on the road Jan. 20 in Ypsilanti despite shooting and rebounding struggles against Eastern Michigan. It took a late surge by the Eagles to pull away with the 10-point win, 64-54.

Since then, Ball State had dropped five straight prior to the rout of Buffalo earlier this week.

"I hope it's a long time before I'm in that position again," Packard said of the losing streak. "I would choose to handle it the same way as I have handled."

Eastern Michigan currently sits in second place in the MAC West, three games ahead of Ball State. Mathematically, with Ball State in fourth place with five games left, the potential for a second place finish isn't out of the question.

Realistically, Packard said, the goal is to win as many of the remaining games as possible to build momentum to make a run in the MAC Tournament. A win over Eastern Michigan would go a long way in doing so for Ball State.

Junior forward Emily Maggert continues to average a double-double for the season, scoring 18.5 points and grabbing 10.8 rebounds a game. Senior guard Audrey McDonald, the MAC's all-time leader in 3-point baskets, adds 11.3 points while seniors Ty'Ronda Benning and Danielle Gratton put up 9.5 and nine points apiece, respectively.

"We're going to have more confidence in our shooting and ourselves," Maggert said.

The key to this afternoon's game could be rebounding, but there is a new X-factor for the Cardinals. Beginning with the Bowling Green game – an 80-76 loss to the MAC's best team Feb. 6 – Packard has utilized every active player on the roster to create high-energy defense.

Sometimes there will be a full court press. Sometimes there will be a 1-3-1 matchup zone and other times the Cardinals will switch to another defense. All this is to keep teams guessing and not be able to recognize what Ball State is doing.

The emergence of Shannon Klei could also play a role not only in the contest against Eastern Michigan, but for the rest of the season. Klei, who is only averaging 3.4 points a game, exploded for a career-high 16 Wednesday night and has seen her minutes increase in the last month by providing quality minutes on defense as well.

"It means a lot to contribute the way I did, but it's not all about points," Klei said. "It's about the team and the 13 people on the roster.

Tipoff for today's game is set for 1 p.m. at Worthen Arena. The game will be in conjunction with the athletics department's "Think Pink" weekend in support of breast cancer awareness.


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