Selfless play helps Ball State stay undefeated at home in MAC play

Senior guard Arbrie Benson picks up a screen from sophomore forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir. Benson then finds Agustsdottir off a screen and roll. She takes it up and lays it in for two points. 

If you were inside Worthen Arena for Saturday’s conference tilt, you saw a lot of that. Spreading the ball around helped Ball State Women’s Basketball (13-6, 5-2 MAC) take down Miami (Ohio) (8-11, 1-6 MAC), 80-63. 

“It was a really good win. First of all, I thought our crowd was great. It seemed bigger than normal, and I think these kids appreciate it and feed off of it a little bit,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “They’re playing hard. We made some passes that were next-level passes.” 

The Cardinals had a healthy dose of passing, accounting for 15 assists, three more than their season average. In the first quarter, Ball State wasted no time getting into the paint. A layup by sophomore forward Blake Smith got the scoring going for the Cardinals, and by the end of one, they used that paint attack to lead, 15-10. 

“They were working really hard to keep our post from rolling and posting in our offense,” Sallee said. “So, we had to be able to move the ball and play both sides of the floor. We had to be patient enough. To our kids' credit, they moved the ball really well today.”

Miami did not go away in the second quarter, as it began the second frame on a 7-0 run. Post play by senior forward Savannah Kluesner allowed the RedHawks to stay in the game. Kluesner did all of her scoring in the first half, accounting for 13 of her team's 24 points. 

Freshman forward Annie Rauch swung the momentum back in the Cardinals' favor with a made layup that also sent her to the foul line with a chance for three. She didn’t convert, but it was the momentum shift Ball State needed. Agustsdottir scored six first-half points and accounted for two rebounds and one steal in the second quarter. The Cardinals went into the break with an eight-point advantage. 

“We tried to go into something, out of something, into something, out of something to make [Dickerson] think a little bit,” Sallee said. “We used our blitz and press defense, but a lot of what we were doing was in our half-court, man-to-man. These kids have been great with the game plan all year, and they were good with it tonight.” 

Junior forward Oshlynn Brown goes in the paint, Jan. 25, 2020, in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals beat the RedHawks 80-63. Jaden Whiteman, DN

The second half would belong to Agustsdottir and the Cardinals. After a back-and-forth third quarter, It was her 13-point second-half performance that allowed Ball State to pull away. Finishing her afternoon with 19 points, The sophomore guard shot 66 percent on the afternoon. 

“I just felt like I was being a lot more aggressive than I have been in the past few games,” Agustsdottir said. “Also, credit to my teammates for finding me in the open shots.” 

Ball State saw contributions in scoring by eight different players. Graduate student guard Jasmin Samz contributed 13 points for the cardinal and white. That put her back into double-figure scoring for the first time in two weeks. Despite being in a drought, Sallee said he didn’t notice Samz’s scoring woes over the past few games. 

“For us to win, we have to have all of these intangibles, and that’s the part of the stat sheet written in invisible ink, but it’s so important, and we don’t win without it,” Sallee said. “Jaz is so much more than points to our team. She had 13 and shot it really well, which is great, but she’s taking charges, she’s a voice on defense, she’s that calming effect on the offense.” 

For Miami, it was senior guard Lauren Dickerson who had 20 points to lead the RedHawks in scoring. The Cardinal defense was able to contain her in the fourth quarter to allow Ball State to pull away. 

The Cardinals saw contributions in the paint from Rauch, who shot 3-for-6, accounting for 10 points. Junior forward Oshlynn Brown recorded another double-double with 11 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. 

Ball State will be back in action Wednesday when it travels to Kent State for its second matchup with the Golden Flashes. The Cardinals took the first matchup, 66-62. 

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

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