After three straight games at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida, Ball State Women's Basketball (1-5, 0-0 MAC) returns to Worthen Arena tomorrow to take on the Cincinnati (5-2, 0-0 American) followed by a trip to Butler (5-0, 0-0 Big East) on Sunday.
“Those three days in Florida taught us a lot,” head coach Brady Sallee said after the final game of the tournament on Sunday. “Our mental game is immensely different. From that first game of the season when we were like deer in headlights to now, I think we’re different top-to-bottom.”
Senior Nakeya Penny has been a vocal leader and played an important role in the Cardinal’s game strategy. The guard tallied 22 points on the weekend and shoots 47 percent from the field thus far in the season.
While the Cardinals are fighting through a four-game losing streak, they are on an up-swing in numbers. Since the season-opener against Purdue, the Cardinals have maintained 40 percent from the field or better in all but one game and their matchup against Duke saw their best rebounding game with a team total of 45.
“The showcase really taught us how to compete,” Penny said. “When playing big teams, they’re going to test you, so we had to learn how to match their level.”
The Cardinals and the Bearcats have not met since the 2004-2005 season, where the Bearcats came out victorious in a four-point win.
With a record of 5-2 on the season, notching victories over Yale, Saint Louis, and Lipscomb, the Bearcats are on a three-game win streak and have been posting impressive numbers. Recording 41 percent from the field and 32 percent behind the arc, this team is poses a big offensive threat.
Looking to Sunday, the Cardinals will travel to Indianapolis to face the Bulldogs in Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are currently 5-0 and senior Whitney Jennings has had a major hand in the team’s success. Posting double-digit points in four of the five games, Jennings ranked fourth in the Big East for points per game with 16.8 during her junior season.
“We’ve started to show our toughness,” Penny said. “We weren’t playing up to our competitive potential before the showcase, but we really started to step up over the weekend.”
Sallee says that playing that schedule that they are is helping them to step up and assess where they are at.
“This schedule was made to be tough intentionally,” Sallee said. “We’re seeing some big time growth because we’re playing teams that really challenge us.”
The Cardinals and the Bearcats will face off on Wednesday in Worthen at 7 PM.