In a game where Ball State Women’s Basketball found itself down by as many as 14, offense was hard to find early, but it was found at the right time for the Cardinals to end a two-game losing streak. 

Scoring a career-high 13 points, freshman forward Annie Rauch found her groove to spark the Cardinal offense. Points weren’t the only category Rauch had a career high in. The forward also collected nine rebounds for a new personal best.

“We knew in the game plan that post play was going to be really important. We knew that rebounding was going to be big,” Rauch said. “Just being able to get in there and get physical with their big girls was really important.”

Although she didn’t lead the team in rebounds, rebounding was a big factor against the Bulls, as the Cardinals outrebounded their opponent for just the second time in conference play. Ball State took the rebounding advantage, 42-40, against Buffalo. 

“We identified before we ever played that if we didn’t outrebound them, we weren’t going to win,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “I think they bought into that. They understood here is what we have to do to win.”

Going 4-for-6 from the field, efficiency was key for Rauch in getting to double figures. This season, Rauch has shot over 50 percent from the field in seven total games. That includes three games where she went perfect from the field. Rauch has also been able to make in-game adjustments that have allowed her to be more physical and find open looks. 

“I think when I got in there at first, I wasn’t ready for it,” Rauch said. “Really quickly, I learned that I had to adjust my game, and once I did that, we were good.”

The contest remained a one-possession game throughout the final 1:15, and rebounding was critical to the Cardinals' success. Rauch pulled down nine rebounds to help Ball State hold off a late surge from Buffalo. Grabbing her ninth defensive rebound with 9.8 seconds left on the clock earned her a trip to the free-throw line, as the Bulls were forced to foul. She went 1-for-2 on that trip, but that was enough to give the Cardinals a two-possession advantage.

“Our post play with the way they were defending it and how spread out they were in their zone, they were really trying to keep us from shooting open threes,” Sallee said. “We talked to Annie about how she had to post hard and occupy one of those defenders, so when Osh came over, she would be one-on-one.” 

Another reason behind Rauch’s recent success as been her mentor in practice and during the games. Sophomore forward Blake Smith has used her experience to help the freshman make in-game adjustments as well as work on new post moves during practice. The two players have developed trust in each other. 

“Me and Blake go against each other every day in practice for the whole practice,” Rauch said. “She’s really vocal with me too, telling me what she has learned already, so I’ve learned from her.” 

Rauch has been trending in the right direction since the start of conference play. If you take out the game against Bowling Green, Rauch is averaging 7.8 points per game. Becoming more assertive in the post has helped Rauch reap the offensive benefits. The Cardinals are a perfect 3-0 when Rauch gets into double-digit scoring. 

Contact Grant Covey with comments at gacovey@bsu.edu or on Twitter @grant_covey.