Senior guard Nathalie Fontaine and junior center Renee Bennett celebrate following the Ball State women's basketball victory over Northern Illinois on March 2 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Cardinals erase 12-point deficit with help from Fontaine, Bennett
Ball State women's basketball managed to erase a 12-point deficit to come back and win 76-68 against visiting Mid-American Conference West Division rival Northern Illinois.
While senior guard Nathalie Fontaine took the spotlight with her 40 minutes of play and record-breaking performance, junior center Renee Bennett led the charge to bring the Cardinals back for the victory.
Fontaine's last second layup was set up by Bennett, who stepped up to pull away from the Huskies with just a few minutes remaining in the game.
With 2:21 remaining in the game, Bennett took a deep 2-point shot to take the lead. After a quick turnover, she got under the basket to add another 2-point layup. The very next possession, Bennett got the rebound, picked up a score and one, scoring 7 points for her team in just over 70 seconds.
“What kept running through my mind was... I want to win it for [Fontaine], I want her to have a good senior night,” Bennett said. “In that final stretch, I was thinking 'any ball that comes off that rim, I'm going to go get it.'”
Bennett picked up a double-double in the game, grabbing 10 rebounds and 17 points.
The energy surrounding Fontaine and her potential to break the record was another factor that kept the team in the game to ultimately pull through with the win.
With just over five seconds remaining and the victory already sealed, Fontaine planned on just killing the clock to end the game, but freshman guard Carmen Grande had other plans in mind.
“We had already won the game, so I honestly wasn't even going to go and lay it up,” Fontaine said. “[Grande]... gave me the ball back when I gave it to her and she just said 'Go, go!'”
Head coach Brady Sallee was happy that Fontaine broke the record, but said he did not keep her in there for that reason.
“It was simply just trying to win a basketball game,” Sallee said.
Ball State won the game with its performance on the glass. The Cardinals out-rebounded the Huskies 18-6 offensively and 22-23 defensively for a total of 13 more rebounds throughout the course of the game.
Sophomore guard Frannie Frazier saw increased playing time and made the most of it, grabbing nine rebounds and 8 points during her 17 minutes on the court. Two rebounds were back-to-back offensive rebounds where she had to out jump and out muscle multiple NIU players before putting it up for the score.
Ball State has one more game remaining against Toledo. The Cardinals having already secured a first-round bye in the MAC Championship.
“You've heard me say this: we want to be playing at our best in March. Well, it's March,” Sallee said. “I think we have the confidence to go beat anybody we'll see.”