At this stage of the season, Ball State (22-4, 11-4 MAC) knows every game matters for its postseason hopes.
That's why a performance such as Wednesday evening's dominant 85-58 win over Western Michigan (14-13, 7-8 MAC) helps relieve some anxiety about Ball State's place on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
"Really excited about what we just did," head coach Brady Sallee said postgame. "I thought our energy [in shootaround] was really, really good and it clearly carried over into the game tonight."
Sallee had the right to be excited after the display Ball State put on, as the Cardinals raced out to a 48-17 lead in the game's first 16 minutes.
Seven different players scored at least eight points, led by sophomore guard Jasmin Samz, who scored 17. Samz scored six of her 17 points from the free-throw line.
"Throughout the summer we shoot a lot of free throws being tired and that really helped me shoot 6-of-7 tonight," Samz said. "We're going to win at the free-throw line in late February and into March."
The Cardinals reversed the script from the last time they saw the Broncos. During the Feb. 10 game against Western Michigan, the teams battled back-and-forth all game en route to an 81-71 Ball State victory.
Defensively, the Cardinals dominated. They forced 14 first-half WMU turnovers, leading to a 16-2 advantage in fast break points. Ball State also out-rebounded Western 47-33.
Senior forward Moriah Monaco helped keep Western Michigan's star player Breanna Mobley in check. The junior forward was held to just 10 points and five rebounds, well below her season averages.
"Mobley's an all-conference player," Sallee said. "So for her to only have 10 points and for her to only have five rebounds [was exceptional]. We were locked in. Our kids knew personnel and we just played them two weeks ago, and our kids understood what this game was going to be about and were ready to play it."
Next up, Ball State hosts Toledo (17-10, 8-7 MAC) at 2 p.m. Saturday for Senior Day.