Ball State Women’s Basketball's (11-4, 3-0 MAC) performances in second halves this season so far has helped it be successful in the win column. The Cardinals were even better again in the second half against Eastern Michigan (7-7, 2-1 MAC), and it was enough for them to come out on top to extend their current win streak to seven games straight.
“This team is comfortable with the real. They don’t get their feelings hurt, and they want to hear the real and when we go into halftime, it’s pretty focused on the real,” Sallee said. “It’s not what I say, it’s just the focus that they have … They listen, and they just go try as hard as they can try.”
Both teams were cold offensively to start. Ball State didn’t see its first made field goal until freshman forward Annie Rauch knocked in a layup with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter. The Cardinals committed nine turnovers and only made 2-of-8 from the field, which gave the Eagles an 18-9 advantage to end the first frame.
Ball State got off to a 7-0 run to begin the second quarter, but a 3-point shot by Eastern Michigan stalled the Cardinals' momentum. Both teams continued to struggle to get the ball in the basket consistently. At the half, Ball State was shooting 28.6 percent from the field, while Eastern Michigan shot 25 percent. The Eagles' 12 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes gave them the slight edge, as they led, 28-22, into the break.
The Cardinals found the rhythm they needed coming out of halftime, as they scored nine straight buckets to give them their first lead of the contest. Eastern Michigan found ways to take the lead back heading into the final frame, 44-38.
In the fourth quarter, with about five minutes remaining, the Cardinals flipped the switch and went on another 9-0 run. However, the Eagles would not go out without a fight, as both teams continued to claw back and forth with each other.
“I wish there was a column on the stat sheet for heart and guts because I think we would’ve won that today,” Sallee said. This team just finds ways to win that I don’t think many teams could.”
Graduate student guard Jasmin Samz showed her experience and determination to win, as she came up with multiple big plays, which played part in deciding the outcome. Samz had eight of her 13 total points in the fourth quarter, as she shot 3-of-4 from the field in the quarter alone, counting two and-one scores.
The play that was arguably bigger than all her points was the charge she drew with only 27 seconds left, which gave Ball State the opportunity to close the game out with free throws.
“Nothing really changes [in late-game situations]. It’s probably just experience … It’s knowing the offense, and being able to stay calm and doing the right things trying to execute and play hard,” Samz said. “I’m just out there to be as tough as nails and hope that no one else is tougher because I put in the work to be there.”
Freshman guard Sydney Freeman also put up 13 points in the contest, and junior forward Oshlynn Brown recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
In the second half, the Cardinals were able to lift their shooting percentage to 40.7 percent. Eastern Michigan’s struggles on offense continued, and they shot 25 percent from the field in total.
Ball State has continued to find ways to close games out in crunch time, and that was the case Saturday. Although Sallee said he felt the execution against Eastern Michigan wasn’t fully there, his team still found another way.
“I don’t know that I would really fall in love with our execution today, but I will fall in love with our toughness, and that’s what this game demanded,” Sallee said. “That’s the part I’m really starting to enjoy watching this group play with. They’re writing the definition of Ball State toughness in their locker room.”
The Cardinals will start their two-game road stretch Wednesday, as they travel to face Central Michigan.