For the first time in over a decade, a Mid-American Conference women’s basketball team will enter conference play undefeated.
Ball State women’s basketball continued its best start in program history with a 93-81 victory over Western Kentucky, moving to 11-0 on the season.
“I just thought our team was ready,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “We came out and didn’t show any hesitancy whatsoever. We were firing on all cylinders from the get-go and kind of controlled the game.”
Control of the game is exactly what Ball State (11-0) did. Western Kentucky (8-4) last held the lead with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter when the score was 12-11. It was then that junior guard Jasmin Samz would nail a 3-pointer that would give Ball State a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Raining shots from beyond the arc fueled the Cardinal's victory. Ball State was hot from 3-point range, connecting on 13 of 29 attempts to register a healthy 44.8 percent from deep.
Senior forward Moriah Monaco was the main catalyst for the barrage of 3-pointers, draining her first of six triples just 33 seconds into the game to set the tone for the Ball State offense.
“I just kind of shoot it when I’m open and I don’t really have a conscience as a shooter, which is a good thing I guess,” Monaco said. “Going 0-8 last game hurt me a little bit so I worked on it. I know I can shoot so that bothers me when I go 0-8 so I just came out and thought it’s a new game, you just have to shoot the ball and thankfully they dropped.”
The shots were falling for Monaco, and the same can be said for the rest of the team.
A total of six Cardinals finished the game in double figures as the team shot an even 50 percent from the floor. Senior forward Destiny Washington was the second-leading scorer for Ball State with 15 points to go along with nine rebounds, three steals and six blocks in a solid all-around performance.
Ball movement led to a lot of open shots for Ball State. Junior guard Carmen Grande was once again distributing the ball with precise passing to open teammates en route to 12 assists, one shy of her season high. Her solid performance as a facilitator and floor general helped Ball State tally 21 fast break points in the win.
“I’m just trying to see the whole floor, and I know where people are better at so I just try to hit them there,” Grande said. “Coach puts the players in positions where they’re good at so I just have to hit the pass, so it’s pretty easy.”
Grande entered the game second in the nation in assists per game with 9.9. Her 12 assists tonight will have her entering MAC play averaging a double-double in points and assists.
Western Kentucky tried to keep the game close by winning the rebounding battle, but Ball State began to effectively crash the glass in the second half and close the deficit, finishing the game with a 42-39 rebounding total in favor of Western Kentucky.
Senior forward Tashia Brown led Western Kentucky in scoring with 25 points, but the Ball State defense was able to force her into some tough shots as she only shot 8-25 from the floor.
Although they are off to their best start in program history, the Cardinals feel like there is still room for improvement.
“The sky is the limit with this group and I think it is because of where they are between their ears,” Sallee said. “They come to practice every day, they have fun playing with each other and I never feel like I’m pulling teeth to try to get them to practice.
They’re just one of those groups where there’s nothing behind it other than trust and just loving to play. It starts with our upperclassmen and just permeates through the team and it’s a fun group to coach.”
The Cardinals will get a nine-day break before returning to Worthen Arena to open conference play by hosting the Central Michigan Chippewas. The game will be Ball State’s fifth of six consecutive home games. The opening tip will be at 2 p.m. on Dec. 30.
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