Before every game, coach Kelly Packard pulls out her cell phone and scrolls down her list of contacts before stopping at a familiar one.
"Ty'Ronda [Benning] can expect a text message from me every pre-game," Packard said. "I texted her earlier today and said, ‘I just need one thing tonight. I need you to bring your energy. We'll follow it.'"
It was a career game for Ball State senior guard Ty'Ronda Benning versus Western Michigan Tuesday night in Worthen Arena. Benning scored a career high 33 points, leading the Cardinals to a 67-60 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos, and their first in the Mid-American Conference. Benning's 33 easily topped her previous career high of 22 points versus Illinois State on Dec. 20, 2009.
Packard's game plan didn't surround Benning, but a few twists and turns on a few offensive sets enabled her to explode.
"The only thing I'll take credit for is installing the flat screen yesterday," Packard said. "She's really gifted coming off a high, flat screen. You might know it's coming, but dealing with it is a whole different story. We kept on going to the flat screen in a couple of other sets where she was able to get off the dribble."
Benning scored the first 10 points for the Cardinals and was 4-of-6 from behind the arc in the first half. She finished the game connecting on 10-of-17 field goals and 6-of-10 three-point field goals. Benning said if opposing defenses don't pay attention to her, she will take advantage of it.
"If I get the ball in my hands, I'm thinking ‘push the ball for my teammates to score on transition. If not, then get a layup'. That's what I did early, and they sagged off me a few times on the three-point line, so I just shot it."
For Benning, having a career night wouldn't have mattered one way or another.
"I didn't feel any [more] pressure tonight than I have any other night," Benning said. "I just came out and played."
The pre-game text message did wonders for Packard, Benning and the rest of the Cardinals.
"From the moment when she took off, she gave us confidence, and we followed," Packard said.