Ball State women's basketball players celebrate after defeating Purdue 66-60 on Dec. 4. Mitch Barloga, Photo Provided
Ball State women's basketball off to 7-0 start on heels on good defense, fast pace of play
Under head coach Brady Sallee, each time the Cardinals played Purdue, they've kept it close. In 2013 and 2014, it was decided by six points. In 2015, it was within 10 points and in 2016, Purdue won by 16.
On Monday night, Ball State finally got over the hump and beat the Purdue 66-60 to get the program’s first victory over the Boilermakers since 1979.
Now with all the national attention and hype that comes from beating a Purdue program that has made three Final Four, eight Elite Eight and 12 Sweet Sixteen appearances, Sallee and company know they have to stay focused to make the victory matter come March.
"This win is only as good as what we do with it," Sallee said. "If we get too full of ourselves right now, than it does not end up meaning anything. If we use this as a catapult to get better, this should be a big win.”
The first test to that catapult comes Thursday when Ball State hosts Southeast Missouri State, who comes to Worthen Arena with a 4-4 ledger on the young season.
Southeast Missouri State has victories over St. Francis, George Mason and Bradley, while suffering blowout losses to Louisville and George Mason. Most recently, it played Cincinnati and lost by 13 on the road.
For the Cardinals, senior forward Moriah Monaco has been the spark in the early going, averaging almost 20 points per game and earning MAC West Player of the Week honors for her performances against Butler and Purdue, where she scored 23 and 18 in the victories.
"I thought Moriah [Monaco] gave that to us,” Sallee said. “She was our go-to, and has been our go-to. She delivered tonight and really executed some things that we haven't had in for a very long time."
The play of junior guard Carmen Grande has also helped propel Ball State. She’s notched four double-doubles in the first seven games and is averaging almost 10 assists per game. Freshman guard Maliah Howard-Bass and freshman forward Oshlynn Brown have been key sparks for the Cardinals off the bench.
After the game against the Redhawks, the Cardinals stay in Muncie to host Oakland City on Sunday in what serves as a tune-up game. The Mighty Oaks are 2-5 on the season, and their only game against a division one opponent ended in a 103-25 loss to Northern Kentucky on Nov. 25.
After that, the Cardinals don’t take the floor for eight days until hosting both Austin Peay and Western Kentucky on Dec. 18 and 21, their last games until starting MAC play on Dec. 30 against Central Michigan.
The 7-0 start may also have someone else’s attention: The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
With the win over Purdue, Ball State now has a pair of victories over Power Five opponents and two wins over RPI top 50 teams.
"It opens up the committee's eyes,” Sallee said. “When you're a program that goes to Vandy and Purdue and win, that should have people's attention."
Thursday’s game against Southeast Missouri State starts at 7 p.m.