Fans were on the edge of their seats Saturday in Worthen Arena, as Ball State Women’s Basketball (3-2, 0-0 MAC) came out with a four-point win over Butler (4-1, 0-0 Big East). There were a number of aspects that contributed to the Cardinals’ success, but a few stood out in crunch time.

Strength in youth

It was the freshmen on the squad who sparked the offense for the Cardinals early on in the contest. Freshman guard Sydney Freeman came out hot with a three and a jumper within the first four minutes of the quarter and ended the game with seven.

Freshman guard Estel Puiggros posted 10 points of her own, including two buckets from deep. The pair combined for five steals, while freshman forward Annie Rauch posted a career-high eight points and played a key role in aggressiveness on the defensive end for the Cardinals.

Taking care of the ball

Ball State freshman guard Estel Puiggros shoots a free throw during the Cardinals' game against Butler Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Puiggros scored 10 points. Paige Grider, DN

While the Cardinals racked up 18 turnovers, the Bulldogs forced an average of 24 a game prior to Saturday’s matchup, which ranked in the top 25 across the country. The Cardinals’ two main point guards, Puiggros and Freeman, only had one turnover apiece and brought the ball up the floor for a majority of the game. 

“I liked the tempo that we had with [Puiggros] in there,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “Between [Puiggros and Freeman], there were five assists and two turnovers. For two freshmen playing against that kind of defense, that says not only about where we are but where we can go.”

Variety of outside shooters

The depth of outside shooters on the Cardinals’ roster showed, as four players combined for nine buckets from behind the arc. Sophomore forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir drained three alone, including two within two minutes of each other in the third quarter. Her offensive efficiency helped spark a run in which she scored eight of the Cardinals' 13 points to tie the game at 47. 

Puiggros added two triples off the bench while graduate student guard Jasmin Samz nailed three from deep to lead the offense in scoring with 16. Freeman only connected on one three against the Bulldogs but has shown an ability early in the season, knocking down seven threes in the span of two games against Cincinnati and Xavier. 

Samz is back

Ball State graduate guard Jasmin Samz gets fouled by Butler freshman guard Oumou Toure during the Cardinals' game against the Bulldogs Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State won 74-70. Paige Grider, DN

Samz was the key to last year’s Cardinal squad, relied upon to be one of the top scorers. To start this season, Samz had posted only one game in double figures. Saturday, the guard not only led the team in scoring, but dished her season high in assists with five, went 50 percent from deep and played a season-high 27 minutes. 

Sallee said Samz's ability to take the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, senior Kristen Spolyar, out of the game was key to the victory.

“That’s what a player like [Samz] can do for you,” Sallee said. “In crunch time, all I had to do was look at her, and she knew what it meant. From there on, Spolyar didn’t get any open looks. That doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, but if that doesn’t happen, we don’t win.”

Samz said her focus has been giving 100 percent and teaching the underclassmen.

“It’s combining a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of expertise while leading by example,” Samz said. “I’m focused on going out there and giving it my all.”

Contact Gabi Glass with comments at grglass@bsu.edu  or on Twitter @gabiglassbsu.