Finding a rhythm on offense was not the Cardinals’ forte Saturday, but their defensive effort made up for their offensive struggles. Ball State Women’s Basketball (15-7, 7-3 MAC) turned to a physical defensive presence to overcome an early deficit and defeat Akron (9-11, 2-7 MAC) 60-52.
“Really excited about this win for a couple of reasons,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “Akron is a really good offensive team, and for us to be able to hold them to 30 in the last three quarters speaks volumes about what we can do defensively.”
Senior guard Arbrie Benson, or “Deuce” as she is called by her teammates, came off the bench for the Cardinals and was a driving force behind why Ball State was able to get the upper hand in the second half. A career-high rebounding performance was what the Cardinals needed from Benson Saturday.
Benson checked into the game in the fourth quarter with 8:24 remaining. She collected seven of her 10 rebounds in that final stretch of the game. She recorded five on the offensive side, which was where she was noticed the most.
“The coaches emphasized that the key to win was to rebound,” Benson said. “Especially when Osh was out, I felt like it was my role to [rebound].”
The Cardinals found themselves down 22-12 after one quarter of play, but after that quarter, Akron failed to score more than 13 points in any other quarter. Ball State committed nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes, allowing the Zips to score six points off turnovers.
“You throw some different lineups out there and see if you can find something,” Sallee said. “We found something at the end of the first quarter, we stayed with it in the second and in the second, we held them to seven points and found some good combinations.”
One of those combinations was the post play of sophomore forward Blake Smith. Smith found the bottom of the net four times, totaling seven points in the second frame. The other combination was that on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals forced the Zips into seven turnovers in the final 4:55 of the second frame, accounting for nine points. The game was all square at 29 at the half.
“I think we’re better when we’re balanced,” Sallee said. “We don’t have that kid who can just go get her own all the time. We have some that are capable here and there, but what we are is a team who moves the ball and shares the ball.”
Ball State came together as a team to play defense, and it paired that with sound offense on the other end. The Cardinals outscored the Zips 20-10 in the fourth quarter to secure the win at home. It wasn’t a day for Ball State to light it up from distance, but it didn’t need to be. The Cardinals were able to find success in different ways.
“I think we did a good job of playing together and stopping them on the defensive end being disciplined and guarding their plays,” Benson said.
Ball State will travel to Toledo Wednesday to take on the Rockets.