- Cardinals advance to 7-7.
- Both Ball State and Kent state struggled on offense.
- Tough game against Bowling Green is upcoming.
It’s a bit of déjà vu for the Ball State women’s basketball team.
The Cardinals have won four of five, and now sit on a .500 record. Though head coach Brady Sallee doesn’t put too much stock into the team’s overall record, he knows players appreciate the mark.
“I don’t really care a whole lot about it,” Sallee said. “For them, it’s easier to say ‘yeah, we’re 7-7.’ It rolls off the tongue a little better.”
The team’s record isn’t the only thing rolling. Much like last year’s team, Ball State is finding its rhythm as it enters Mid-American Conference play.
A 55-31 win over Kent State on Sunday improved Ball State’s MAC record to 2-1.
“There’s a little bit of a feel [similar] to how we got better last season…and here we go again,” Sallee said. “As the season has progressed you see us getting better.”
Last season, Ball State entered conference play with a 3-10 record. An immediate turnaround led to a 12-4 record in league play and a spot in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Sallee said early January is the time when teams should be learning their roles, hitting shots and playing good team basketball. Now, for a second year in a row, that looks to be the case for the Cardinals.
On Saturday, Ball Sate’s defensive efforts led to a physical, scrappy win over Kent State. The Cardinals shot 13-of-46 from the floor, hitting just one more field goal than the Golden Eagles.
Though shooting has improved in recent games, a poor performance forced the team to rely on its defensive discipline against Kent State. Sallee was glad to see the team maintain its focus through adversity.
The first half was low scoring. Ball State went into the locker room holding a 21-10 lead, a point where Sallee said it could have been easy to lose focus.
“It would have been easy to go in and pout because you only have 21 points,” Sallee said. “When you look at the scoreboard and you lead by double digits because of your defensive effort, I think these kids understand how hard we work at that end of it.”
Sophomore guard Nathalie Fontaine, though not the team’s best defender, said playing physical basketball is important. She said players don’t want to see themselves make mistakes on film the next day.
But apart from dreading the mistakes that might come up during film sessions, looking ahead isn’t an issue.
“Like [Sallee] says, we’re 1-0 today. It’s always winning the next game that matters,” she said.
Sallee is pleased with the team’s current level of play. The growth and progress he alluded to will be tested again Wednesday night as Ball State hosts Bowling Green.
The Falcons, another team Sallee expects to be very physical, are 13-2 on the season, with a 3-0 mark in MAC play. Sunday’s game will serve as good preparation for the Falcons, who Sallee said won’t give up an easy possession.
But if the team’s early MAC play is of any indicator, the Cardinals will be ready.
“We’re starting to look like the team I thought we could,” Sallee said. “The ball is rolling.”