Cardinals expect WNIT bid
Ball State (21-9, 13-5 Mid-American Conference) finished the regular season with its first 20-win season since 2008-09. Senior guard Nathalie Fontaine was named MAC Player of the Year and broke the Cardinals’ all-time scoring record.
But when Ball State was knocked out of the MAC Tournament quarterfinals March 9, Fontaine said she would have traded all of the individual accolades for a MAC championship.
“This was what I wanted above all of those other things,” she said. “But we’ll keep working.”
Ball State statistics (rank in MAC)
Shooting percentage: 42.7 percent (1st)
Assists per game: 15.9 (1st)
Free-throw shooting: 74.2 percent (1st)
Rebounding margin: plus-6.3 rebounds per game (2nd)
The season, however, may not be over yet — a potential Women’s National Invitation Tournament bid could be in the works. Unlike the men’s NIT, which is owned by the NCAA and only invites 32 teams, the WNIT invites 64 schools and is independently owned.
If selected, it would be the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive WNIT bid.
Head coach Brady Sallee said a postseason bid is probable, but the team’s goal was to make the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m lucky I get to keep coaching them,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s in a tournament we’re excited to be in, but we feel like we’re good enough to be in the other one too. And I know that’s what [Fontaine] deserves, and the country deserves to see her on that stage, too. That’s what I hate.”
The Cardinals own the top shooting percentage in the MAC, hitting 42.7 percent of their shots. They also lead the conference with 15.9 assists per game and a 74.2 percent free-throw shooting percentage.
Ball State out-rebounded its opponents by an average margin of 6.3 rebounds per game. In the tournament loss to Eastern Michigan, however, it lost the rebounding battle 48-43.
Sallee said the Cardinals just had a bad game at the wrong time.
“It’s not like all of the sudden we’re broken,” he said. “We just stunk.”
He also said he expects that to change if Ball State gets a tournament bid.
“We know who we are,” he said. “When we win the rebound battle, when we win the free-throw battle, when we win points in the paint, we win.”
When asked about having a “fairly good” 21-win season, Sallee said he took the question as a compliment.
“I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job with this program because five years ago, Ball State wasn’t here,” he said. “And so that’s how far this program has come when you call 21 wins a ‘fairly good’ season.”
The Cardinals will find out if their season will continue today when the WNIT field is officially announced.