WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Cards buck Broncos to advance in MAC Tournament

Ball State advances to play Toledo in Cleveland

Beating a team three times in a season is supposed to be one of the most difficult tasks a team can perform in basketball.

That didn't matter to Ball State University in Saturday's Mid-American Conference first round matchup at Worthen Arena.

For the third time this season, Ball State had a decisive victory over Western Michigan, this time 67-43. With the win, the Cardinals advance to Cleveland to face MAC West Division winner University of Toledo in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals.

"We haven't had many games like that this year. They've always been nail-bitters for us," senior guard Audrey McDonald said. "It was very comforting and helped with our confidence to get a lead and keep the lead. It's a big confidence boost going into our next game."

The Cardinals (14-16, 8-9 MAC) held firm control in most of the contest. They trailed the Broncos (9-21, 4-13 MAC) only once, 2-0, early in the game proving that, in fact, defeating a team three times in a season can be done.

" [Western Michigan] was more scout specific than some of the others. We were able to narrow down, especially in their starting five, tendencies," coach Kelly Packard said. "We knew that, well from having faced them twice, but sometimes you face a team with guards who are versatile that don't have a dominate hand.."

Junior forward Emily Maggert struggled to produce her double-double pace thanks to being double- and triple-teamed effectively in the post all night. She ended the night with five points and six rebounds.

Freshman guard Shanee' Jackson continued her late-season emergence with her second straight 10 point effort off the bench for Ball State.

"I wanted to step up and contribute to the team," Jackson said. "It's a confidence boost going into Cleveland. It's an exciting time because it's my first MAC Tournament."

The Cardinals relied on balanced scoring and the sharing of minutes take advantage of the Broncos. All 12 active members of the roster logged minutes with 10 of the 12 players recording points.

Smart shot selection also helped the Cardinals handle the Broncos. Ball State shot 50 percent from the floor (20-for-40) for the game.

Western Michigan hung tough early, rallying from seven down to pull within one at 14-13, but that would be as close as it would get. Amber Crago made a couple impressive moves in the post to notch a couple buckets, then Danielle Gratton nailed a pull-up jumper to cap a 13-2 run to end the half with a 27-15 lead.

Audrey McDonald opened the second half owned by Ball State with a pair of 3-pointers to extend the lead to 17. The Cardinals' advantage would grow as large as 26.

"I had some good looks in the first half, but they just didn't go in," McDonald said. "My teammates set some great screens for me in the second half and I was able to knock down some shots."

Ty'Ronda Benning and McDonald led Ball State with 13 points each. Patrice King and Crago chipped in eight points apiece.

"We've been working on executing our plays and following shots," Benning said. "If teams are focusing on Audrey we'll just try to run the floor and that's what we did tonight."

The Ball State defense held Western Michigan to 27 percent from the floor for the game as well as forcing 22 turnovers.

"I let our post players know I think they're soft inside. We had three goals coming into this game. Get greedy on the glass, consuming the block on offense and dictate on defense," Packard said. "With 15 points allowed in the first half I'm happy with the job we did in the paint."

Waiting in the wings is Toledo, a team with which Ball State split the regular season. The Cardinals defeated the Rockets at Worthen Arena but fell last week to the Rockets in Toledo.