It was an afternoon of miscues inside Worthen Arena on Saturday. The usually crisp-passing Ball State women’s basketball team coughed up 23 turnovers in a loss to Buffalo (13-3, MAC 4-1) 84-80.
“You look at our numbers, it’s not necessarily who we are, it’s who Buffalo made us be today,” head coach Brady Sallee said.
The 23 turnovers are a season-high for Ball State (14-2, MAC 3-2), which turned into a mountainous 27 points for Buffalo. Bulls’ junior guard Cierra Dillard led the pack scoring 20 points and hitting the 1,000-point mark for her career.
The Bulls were far from perfect either committing 19 turnovers, which turned into 24 Cardinal points.
With Buffalo coming into the matchup atop the Mid-American Conference East Division, and Ball State only dropping one game on the season, scrappy defense on both sides was expected.
What wasn’t expected was for Sallee’s team to be out-toughed, something that has rarely happened this season.
“You look at every toughness category, points in the paint rebounding turnovers and we lost.”
Sallee said the tougher team got the win and called the loss “eye-opening.”
“We’ve played some really tough teams this year, but I don’t know if we’ve been out toughed like we were today.”
Junior Carmen Grande stuffed the stats sheet once again. The guard led the Cardinals In assists (11), steals (4), blocks (3) and finished as the second leading scorer with 14 points.
But for as good as Grande has looked all season, she may have had a lapse in toughness today.
In the final play of the game, the Cardinals, down four with 11 seconds left looked to get a quick field goal. Grande — who clearly wasn’t expecting the ball — heaved a 3-point shot nearly 6 feet from the arc. It didn’t hit the rim and Buffalo secured its victory.
Salle said it was plays like those that hurt his team down the stretch.
“Those are as good as turnovers,” he said. “Some of that sloppy play got us.”
The Cardinals fought back to make it competitive after a lethargic first quarter which found them down 17. Only allowing the Bulls 16 points in both the second and third quarter aided by a 15-0 run put the Cardinals in good shape going into the fourth quarter all tied up at 61.
The Bulls lit it up from beyond the 3-point line shooting 50% for the game. Buffalo guard Katherine Ups hit three triples in a row to push the Buffalo lead to seven midway through the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Moriah Monaco knows her team didn’t play like its normal self today. Like Sallee said, the loss was a matter of toughness.
“They were tougher than us today, but I don’t think we’re not tough,” Monaco said. “We’re a tough team and we have played tough and that’s why we have the record that we do now.”
Senior forward Destiny Washington quietly led the team in scoring with 17 points but also had five turnovers. Junior guard Jasmin Samz also got hot from the 3-point line hitting 3-of-8.
With only two losses on the season, Sallee doesn’t see any need for anyone to panic about his team. In a battle between two Top 40 RPI ranked teams — Ball State 28 and Buffalo 37 — it wasn’t going to be easy on either side.
“We want to start blasting sirens and going cuckoo and talking about a bunch of bologna,” Sallee said. “I guess we’ve spoiled everybody.”
The Cardinals hit the road for the next two games facing Toledo on Wednesday and Kent State on Saturday.
Contact Elizabeth Wyman with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.