Ball State Women’s Basketball (18-7, 10-3 MAC) has shown to be nearly unstoppable at home. The Cardinals only have one flaw so far in Worthen Arena, and that came from out-of-conference play. Beating Northern Illinois (8-16, 4-9 MAC) 97-89 Wednesday, Ball State remains undefeated against Mid-American Conference opponents at Worthen Arena.
The Cardinals now sit at 7-0 on their hard floor in league play and 10-1 over the entire course of the 2019-20 campaign.
There was no denying Ball State at the beginning of the contest. From the tip, the Cardinals got off to a 7-0 run, which aided them in building a 22-9 advantage in the first frame.
The Cardinals’ ball movement was on point, and their extra passes helped them find easy looks at the basket.
“I think our ball movement has been really good for a while,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “I think we have finally started to figure out this new offense we’ve been running, and we’re able to move some pieces around that I think caused them some problems.”
Junior forward Oshlynn Brown and sophomore forward Blake Smith were the hot hands to start. Brown put up 12 first-quarter points, and Smith added seven.
The Huskies didn’t give in though, and they were able to recover from the early blow by the Cardinals. Northern Illinois cut into the Ball State lead, layer by layer, until it finally opened up. The Huskies scored 12 points unanswered in the second quarter, taking their first lead of the contest 32-29.
However, graduate guard Jasmin Samz was not having it, as she responded with a 3-point shot to take away the Huskies' short-lasted lead. Ball State headed into halftime with a 41-37 lead, shooting 48.3 percent from the field.
Coming out of the break, Ball State put together its best quarter of the contest. After a quick burst of points at the end of the frame, the Cardinals found themselves building on to their lead. Northern Illinois made its runs and tried to cut into the deficit, but Ball State stayed poised and held on when it mattered most.
Ball State has excelled in team oriented basketball throughout this season. Following that trend in this matchup, the Cardinals were hitting Northern Illinois from all different angles. The Huskies just didn’t have a counter, and it caught up with them at the end of the game.
Brown led the group by attacking the paint, knocking in easy buckets and making her attempts at the free-throw line count. She even extended her range, cashing in on a three-ball.
“She’s good,” Sallee said. “Teams have been focusing on her, and she went off today.”
Brown finished with 28 points and also collected 13 rebounds, marking her tenth double-double of the season. She was 8-of-18 from the field and made the free ones count, with 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
“I just kind of let the game come to me, especially the last few games and everyone just flopping on me,” Brown said. “I knew I had to take my time today and not rush it.”
Everyone who made an appearance on the court found her way into the scoring column, five of them with double figures. Sophomore forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir scored 15, freshman guard Sydney Freeman put up 13, Samz knocked in 11 and redshirt freshman Anna Clephane dropped 10.
“You can’t just focus on one of us, so if our ball movement can continue to be that good — we are this talented offensively” Sallee said.
The scoring was efficient as a team. Ball State shot 51.6 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from behind the 3-point line.
“We put Oshlynn down in the paint and it started to be the ‘Osh show,’” Sallee said. “[Northern Illinois] had to spend so much energy coming to guard her, that we were able to hit some other people.”
The Cardinals have performed really well on the defensive end as of late. However, it wasn’t their best showing Wednesday, as they gave up the most points they have in 16 games. Ultimately, their pressure still forced the Huskies into mistakes. Northern Illinois had 24 turnovers.
“I thought in the first half we chased them and that’s not a good idea, but in the second half I thought we calmed down just a little bit,” Sallee said.
The Cardinals will head back on the road Saturday to take on Eastern Michigan, looking to extend their overall win streak to six straight.