Junior forward Oshlynn Brown (32) loses a rebound to Junior guard Kenzie Schmitz, Jan. 25, 2020, in John E. Worthen Arena. Schmitz had five points against the Cardinals. Jacob Musselman, DN
Ball State counts on defense, toughness, trust in positive season
In sports, there’s the saying ‘defense wins championships,’ whether it is true or not, Ball State is testing the theory. Although they haven’t reached the final mark, their continued stout defensive performances have led them to have a successful season so far.
Throughout the 2019-20 campaign of the Ball State Women’s Basketball team, the Cardinals have keyed in on their physicality and toughness, which has led to them being a top defensive team in the Mid-American Conference and nearing the 20-win mark, as they currently sit at 19-8, 11-4 MAC.
Their effort on the defensive end has carried them over opponents many times in the season, as they have seen their offense struggle at times, which was the case against Toledo on Wednesday.
With their offense struggling to get buckets consistently at the end of the contest, head coach Brady Sallee knew exactly what needed to happen for the Cardinals to come up on top.
“I told them with about seven minutes to go, ‘we’re a little bit choppy offensively and even though we were throwing it in the paint and doing some good things, it just wasn’t as smooth as we have been used to, so let’s just go win it defensively,” Sallee said. “We know that’s where we are good, we know we rebound the ball and let’s just go do that.”
Ball State was able to hunker down and hold Toledo to just 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point territory. The Rockets only managed to get 60 points on the board.
It was another case of the Cardinals’ defense controlling the game, as they have consistently all through the year. Especially, in conference play, and it has led them to be ranked first in the MAC in points allowed to opponents counting the complete schedule and also first in defensive field goal percentage by holding teams to just 36.8 percent and 29.4 percent from 3-point range
.Ball State has only allowed their foes to score an average 63.6 points per game overall this season and 65.4 in league play alone, which sits them in second in only MAC play behind Kent State.
The Cardinals have been a part of a lot of contests that have gone down to the wire, but that’s where having a solid defensive team helps be successful in the tight-knit games. Ball State has proven that to be true, as their ability to hold opponents at the end of games when they need it the most.
“We know how to get a stop when we need to,” Sallee said. “We have developed a lot of confidence and there is a lot of trust in the locker room and that’s what is leading to us being able to execute and get a huge stop and that’s really the ticket with this team.”
Ball State has continued to express the amount of faith that the players have with each other and also the trust the coaches have in the team. It has led to them being on the same page when they are competing and it has given them a boost in confidence.
“I think we just have a better feel with each other, the trust is a lot better,” graduate guard Jasmin Samz said. “We really trust the plan that we are given and we have all bought in and that’s not something that you always see.”
When the team is on the court, it is noticeable that there isn’t one standout. The group is dependent on each other and the chemistry that they have built-in the season is evident, as they work together putting on complete team defensive outings.
“I just think that we have a lot of confidence in each other,” freshman forward Annie Rauch said. “I think that, that confidence and trust is what makes the biggest difference.”
When it comes to defense, working together and talking to others tends to be very important if you want to be good on that end and that’s what the Cardinals do.
“I think that we communicate very well, especially coming from last year to now and I think that is why we are number one in the MAC on defense,” junior forward Oshlynn Brown said.
If the Cardinals want to continue to prosper, they know that they will have to be better as a whole offensively going into the final stretch of the season and they have shown flashes off being good on the scoring end. Teams that put it all together usually end up being dangerous in tournament play.