It was a showdown at Fifth Third Arena Saturday afternoon where Ball State Women’s Basketball (1-2, 0-0 MAC) and Cincinnati (1-2, 0-0 American) traded leads and fought tooth-and-nail, ending in a 63-56 victory for the Bearcats.

“It was a hard-fought game against a good team,” Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said. “I liked a lot of things I saw. We just have to make our free throws and get the tempo to where we want it to be.”

The Bearcats maintain an all-time winning record over the Cardinals at 9-5. It was the Cardinals who came out on top of last year’s contest. Redshirt freshman guard Anna Clephane posted 22 points in that matchup, and she took it to the Bearcats again Saturday.

Clephane has continually been a leading scorer for the Cardinals thus far this season. With nine points against IUPUI and 16 against Purdue Fort Wayne, the sophomore’s comeback from injury has been crucial to the Cardinal offense in their first three games of the season.

Freshman guard Sydney Freeman and sophomore forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir guided the Cardinals through the first half. Freeman led the team with six points followed by Agustsdottir with five. The pair also contributed a combined eight rebounds.

Freeman, a freshman Indiana All-Star from Central Noble High School, made her presence known on the Cardinal roster Saturday, contributing half of the team’s 3-point baskets with three.

Ball State Head Coach Brady Sallee talks to a referee in the fourth quarter against IUPUI Nov. 5, 2019, in the IUPUI Gymnasium in Indianapolis, Ind. This is Sallee's eighth season with the Cardinals. Jacob Musselman, DN

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a point guard that can score the ball,” Sallee said. “She’s an offensive threat, she takes good care of the ball and she puts pressure on the defense.”

The Cardinals led at the end of the first quarter, 9-8, but the Bearcats gained a three-point advantage at the half. Turnovers continued to plague Ball State, as it tallied 10 to the Bearcats’ five after two quarters. However, the Bearcats had their fair share of difficulties as well. The Cardinals outrebounded them, 23-12, 10 of which were on the offensive end.  

“Rebounding has [been] a point of emphasis for us,” Sallee said. “We’ve talked about it, worked on it and it has paid off in our favor the last couple of games.”

Shooting just 11 percent from 3-point range prior to Saturday’s matchup, the Bearcats’ struggle from deep benefited the Cardinals. While Cincinnati couldn’t sink one in the first half, Ball State posted three, but it didn’t keep the Bearcats down for long.

The Bearcats maintained the lead throughout the third quarter, but the Cardinals kept things close with points from junior forward Oshlynn Brown, freshman forward Annie Rauch and freshman guard Estel Puiggros. However, Ball State failed to gain an advantage.

Cincinnati extended its lead to eight by the fourth quarter with Ilmar’I Thomas guiding the team with 11 points. 

Freeman continued to light up the 3-point line, drilling her third three in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals grabbed a one-point lead with four minutes left in the game, but the Bearcat momentum returned shortly after, and Ball State was unable to make up the deficit, falling short, 63-56.

Clephane led the Cardinals in points with 15, followed closely by Freeman and Brown who each added 11. Brown posted a double-double, pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Contact Gabi Glass with comments at or on Twitter @gabigalssbsu.