While the game was sloppy for both teams, when the final buzzer sounded, Ball State Women’s Basketball (1-3, 0-1 MAC) did enough to earn its first win of the season.
The Cardinals used energy and toughness on the defensive end of the floor to pull away with a 58-54 victory against Western Kentucky (0-2, 0-0 C-USA).
With each team trading buckets heading into the fourth quarter, Ball State’s defense strung together multiple stops at the right time down the stretch. Head Coach Brady Sallee was impressed by the resolve and strength his players showed.
“We had to defend to win,” Sallee said. “It takes a lot of resiliency and toughness to win on the road. Our team answered the bell.”
Junior guard Essence Booker finished with a share of the team-high 15 points. Booker tallied just one steal but was a pest for the opposing ball-handlers all game long. She drew two charges: the most for any Cardinal in a game this season. Her most important stat came in the final seconds when she walked to the free-throw line with a chance to put the game out of reach. She stepped up and connected on two shots to extend the lead to four, putting the game out of reach.
Booker, a transfer from Nevada, did not receive her waiver to play until the morning of the Milwaukee game (first game of the season).
“I’m excited about her future,” Sallee said. “She has been trying to feel her way through the situation. You are starting to see her full talent show up. Ball handling, hustle plays, rebounding, she can do it all.”
Junior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir was the other player to score 15 points. She has scored double digits in each of the first four games, being the only player to do so. Dis Agustsdottir also pulled down eight rebounds.
Sophomore forward Annie Rauch came off the bench to have a career night. She notched the first double-double of her collegiate career, totaling 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Maliah Howard Bass also came off the bench to contribute 10 points. In total, the Cardinals bench outscored the Lady Hilltoppers by a margin of 23-2.
Despite the outcome, turnovers still plagued Ball State (21). Through four games, the Cardinals have tallied 20 or more turnovers in each contest. Ball State was able to get open looks on offense, but shots were just not falling. They shot 18-for-59 from the field, including 5-for-23 from the three-point line.
“We need to take care better of the ball,” Sallee said. “Hopefully, the biggest takeaway for them is the way they played, they still won. Winning on the road is never easy.”
The Lady Hilltoppers were led by Meral Abdelgawad, who finished with 15 points. She also gave the Cardinals plenty of problems on the glass, grabbing 10 on the afternoon.
Senior forward guard Oshlynn Brown missed her fourth straight game of the season. Brown, who was named to the Preseason MAC All First Team, is still recovering from a hand injury. She is considered day-to-day.
After a stretch of three games in the past week, Ball State will not return to action until Dec. 14, when it travels to Bellarmine. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.