Ball State junior guard Carmen Grande utilizes a screen to dribble around a Western Michigan defender in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Robby General, DN
Ball State unable to capitalize on late chances in MAC Tournament loss to Western Michigan
When it's not your night, nothing seems to go right.
That seemed to be the case for Ball State women's basketball (24-6) as it fell to Western Michigan (18-14) in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals, 65-54.
"I'm disappointed for our group because they wanted to be here," Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said. "They were excited about the next three or four days, and they felt like they were a team that could make some noise in this thing. Honestly, we've had some groups that have come up here, and I'm not real sure they wanted to be here, but this wasn't one of them. To come out here and play the way that we did, I hurt for them."
The very first shot attempt of the game, a layup attempt by junior guard Jasmin Samz that went over the backboard, marking the beginning of a rough night for the Cardinals.
"We uncharacteristically shot 36 percent and only had eight assists, and that's just not who we've been," Sallee said. "Then you throw in 9-for-22 from the free-throw line, and it's a reason we'll be going home early. [It's] tough to have the year that we had and come play the way that we did, but it happens, and it happened tonight, and I think we're all disappointed with our effort."
After facing a 19-point deficit at halftime, the second half had the same start for Ball State as Western Michigan's lead ballooned to a game-high 26 points. Junior guard Carmen Grande drove the lane and missed an open layup on what could've been a chance to seize some momentum for the Cardinals. Grande recovered soon after to make a tough layup in traffic, sparking a much-needed 9-0 run for Ball State.
"We were just thinking play-by-play, and we couldn't get past that eight-point mark, but we were just trying to go play by play and stop-by-stop, and it took us as far as it took us, but we dug ourselves a hole too deep," Grande said.
Whenever it seemed like Ball State was in position to make a run, poor free throw shooting would halt some of its momentum. Overall, the team finished just 9-22 from the charity stripe.
The Cardinals were also unable to find many open passing lanes all night. Ball State entered the game ranked 11th in the nation with 19 assists per game but finished tonight with just eight total to go along with 13 turnovers.
"I honestly think we just didn't handle pressure, which we get pressured in every game, and yeah, credit to them, but we need to be able to play through that," Grande said. "... We put ourselves in positions that made us turn it over where we usually don't turn it over because we don't put ourselves there."
Carmen Grande was one of the few bright spots for Ball State's offense. The junior guard led the team with 16 points on 6-11 shooting from the field, hitting all three of her 3-pointers. Freshman forward Oshlynn Brown was the only other Cardinal to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.
The Cardinals had no answer for the 3-point shooting of the Broncos. Western Michigan's first four makes from the floor all came from beyond the arc as the team finished 10-22 from deep.
"I think it unfolded that way," Western Michigan head coach Shane Clipfell said. "It looked like it got contagious. ... We don't run a lot of plays necessarily to get 3-point shots ... but I think it became a confidence situation, and the basket was bigger today than it was maybe normally."
Ball State on the other hand, came out ice-cold to start the game. The Cardinals didn't hit a shot from the floor until the 5:46 mark of the first quarter when Moriah Monaco made a 3-pointer, her only make from long range all game as she finished 1-9 from deep and 2-13 overall.
For the game, Ball State shot a dismal 36 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point range. Western Michigan had four players score in double figures, shooting 39 percent from the field as a team and 45 percent from deep.
With Ball State's loss, any hopes the team had of making the NCAA Tournament likely disappeared.