Ball State women's basketball tied for 1st in MAC after win against Central Michigan
Ball State women's basketball is now tied for first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.
The Cardinals (20-8, 13-3 MAC) trailed the Central Michigan Chippewas (21-7, 13-3 MAC) 66-65 when sophomore guard Destiny Washington checked in with 7:01 remaining. Junior forward Moriah Monaco hit a layup with 6:31 on the clock to give Ball State the 67-66 lead on the sixth lead change of the fourth quarter.
Washington scored the next 10 points for the Cardinals as they extended the lead to 77-71, eventually winning 81-73.
1. Kent State, 11-5
2. Ohio, 10-6
3. Buffalo, 9-7
t-4. Bowling Green State, 4-12
t-4. Miami (Ohio), 4-12
6. Akron, 2-13
t-1. Central Michigan, 13-3
t-1. Ball State, 13-3
3. Northern Illinois, 12-4
4. Toledo, 10-6
5. Western Michigan, 7-9
6. Eastern Michigan, 1-1
“We knew we needed to buckle down and play on defense, and we needed stops and we needed to keep going," Washington said. "So the thing that was on our mind was just to get stops and turn our defense into offense.”
The Cardinals scored 17 points off of 11 Chippewas turnovers, while only turning the ball over six times. Sophomore point guard Carmen Grande, who beat the halftime buzzer with a reverse layup, led the Cardinals with eight assists and didn't turn the ball over in 38 minutes on the court.
Head coach Brady Sallee said Central Michigan's style of defense generally doesn't lead to many turnovers — the Chippewas only force 14.1 turnovers per game, the second-fewest in the MAC — but he was still ecstatic to hold onto the ball so well.
“There’s really no reason to turn it over, but still, to only have six?" Sallee said. "That’s kind of crazy, especially playing at the tempo that we do.”
Washington came in off the bench to lead Ball State with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. She also added four assists.
“She’s a matchup nightmare," Sallee said. "Her skill set — I mean this box score is her skill set. Points, rebounds, blocks, assists, hustle plays. Some of the blocks we had there down the stretch, you can’t coach that. You can only recruit it.”
Though Washington led the Cardinals on the stat sheet, Monaco added 20 points and became the third Ball State player this season to reach 1,000 career points, joining seniors Jill Morrison and Renee Bennett.
“I think it says that people, when they have to gameplan against us, they’ve really got to think it out," Monaco said. "Either you have to take away Renee and double her, but if you double off of Jill or I then you leave people that can shoot the 3 wide open which, if we’re hitting, you can’t really do that.”
The win also marks the second straight season the Cardinals have won at least 20 games and the first time Ball State has reached the benchmark in consecutive seasons since the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
With just two games remaining before the conference tournament and a three-game lead over Toledo (19-8, 10-6 MAC) and Ohio (19-8, 10-6 MAC), who are tied for the fifth-best record in the MAC, the Cardinals have guaranteed a spot in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals in Cleveland.
Ball State can also win the regular-season title outright if it wins out and Central Michigan loses one of its last two.
“We’re just plain good, and this time of year that’s what every coach hopes for," Sallee said.
Ball State hits the road for its next game Wednesday at Eastern Michigan.