If you were looking for another close, down-to-the-wire basketball contest, “The Pit” in New Mexico was the place to be for the second straight night. The Cardinals offense didn’t put on their best offensive performance, but that didn’t matter. Both teams shot under 40 percent on the night which led to a low-scoring, defensive battle.
Ball State Women’s Basketball (6-4, 0-0 MAC) outscored Providence (8-3, 0-0 Big East) in two quarters, proving to be enough for the Cardinals in a 52-51 win over the Friars. The win brings Ball State 2-0 in the Lobo Invitational.
With 27 seconds left in the contest, Ball State trailed by two. The Cardinals’ defense, which forced 11 turnovers, forced a turnover that would set them up for what would be the game-winning 3-pointer. Head coach Brady Sallee used a timeout to set up the final play. Out of the timeout, Graduate student guard Jasmin Samz got the ball and fired away a triple with just nine ticks left on the clock.
Samz would score the final five points for Ball State to lift them over Providence. The Cardinals led with under 20 seconds to go for the first time since the 4:22 mark in the second quarter.
“It came down to the end and put the ball in Jasmin Samz hands and we had a play drawn up that they defended well, but then she went and made a big play for us and hit a big shot,” Sallee said. “It was a heck of a ball game and both teams played their hearts out and we made the last shot.”
The Friars would still get a crack at a game-winning shot attempt, but out of their timeout, two missed shots by sophomore guard Mary Baskerville and sophomore guard Earlette Scott in the closing seconds would be the difference for the Cardinals in the win. Scott committed a foul at the basket and the officials would put .4 seconds on the clock via replay and give possession back to Ball State. Samz received the inbound pass and the clock would hit double zeros.
“The kids literally just kept fighting and fighting defensively against a team that is really good offensively and really efficient,” Sallee said. “I told them going into the fourth quarter, ‘We were right here last night and we know what got us back into it. The fight and the toughness. If we go get a couple of defensive stops we will be right back in it and put the pressure on them,’ and it’s exactly what they did and we defended great all night.”
The Cardinals came out swinging, scoring six points to the Friars zero before the first media timeout. The Cardinals were able to turn their defensive pressure into offense and they held a 10-6 lead at the end of the first frame. Ball State would cool off and Providence would heat up in the second quarter. The Cardinals led by as many as eight in the first half and trailed by as many as six. Providence had the upper hand on Ball State at halftime, 21-17.
The Cardinals were able to mirror their first-quarter performance in the fourth quarter to secure their second straight win. Providence came into the game holding the 19th best 3-point shooter in the nation. Sophomore guard Kaela Webb came into the contest shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc for the Friars, making 31 of her 69 attempts on the season. The Cardinals’ defense was able to hold her to just 1-4 shooting and five points on the night.
Junior forward Oshlynn Brown scored 14 points on 5-13 shooting and 4-9 from the free-throw line. Brown recorded her third straight double-double, recording 14 rebounds. As a team, Ball State would attempt 62 field goals in the win, but only connect on 18 of them. Providence also saw similar shooting struggles as they shot 20-64 on field goals.
“[Brown] has been playing like a warrior,” Sallee said. “The kid goes up and comes down with rebounds and I have no idea how she does it. She is just relentless in her pursuit of the ball and she just plays hard all the time and it's just sheer grit.”
This would be the second-highest ranked team that Ball State has faced this season according to NCAA.com women’s basketball RPI. The Friars came into the contest has the 46th ranked team in the nation. The Cardinals were not fazed by that and were able to come out on top.
“We knew they were a really good team and we knew that we would have to be good on defense to beat them,” Sallee said. “We didn’t really talk about their ranking or anything like that.”
Ball State will play the final game of the Lobo Christmas Classic Friday night as they face hot New Mexico. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Lobos and the Cardinals. Regardless of the outcome, Ball State will hold a winning record in this invitational and will return to Muncie with an overall record of better than .500.
“It’s going to be a high-level game for sure. They’re electric on offense and they play really, really fast,” Sallee said. “There’s going to be a huge crowd here, so it is going to have a championship feel to it tomorrow night. We look forward to playing probably the best team that we have seen all year.”