Ball State survives Eastern Michigan comeback to earn road victory

<p>Ball State Cardinals redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane looks for an open teammate in the first half against the Eastern Michigan Eagles during a home game Dec. 2, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost to the Eagles 77-58. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

Ball State Cardinals redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane looks for an open teammate in the first half against the Eastern Michigan Eagles during a home game Dec. 2, 2020, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost to the Eagles 77-58. Jacob Musselman, DN

Despite operating in uncharted waters, the Cardinals used their trust in one another to extend their winning streak to two games. 

Ball State Women’s basketball (6-5, 4-3 MAC) returned to the court after its string of cancellations and captured a 68-64 road victory against Eastern Michigan (8-6, 5-4 MAC). 

Head Coach Brady Sallee tested positive for COVID-19 and was unavailable for the game. In his absence, Assistant Coach Bri Kulas stepped in and coached her first career collegiate contest, and got her first win. 

“I think we’re all an extension of Brady,” Kulas said. “The biggest thing for me was being prepared and making sure the team was ready to step on the court and play a full 40-minute game.”

After trailing the entire first quarter, the Cardinals increased their defensive intensity and held the Eagles to just 10 second-quarter points. From the early point of the second quarter on, Ball State never relinquished their grasp on the lead. 

The play of the game came with nine seconds left, with the Cardinals up 65-64. The Eagles were on a 19-5 run and needed one stop to get the ball back for a chance to win. Sophomore guard Sydney Freeman stepped into a pass at the right wing and drained a shot from beyond the arc to put the game away. Freeman finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. She also committed just one turnover against the half-court pressure of Eastern Michigan.

“We just needed to stay composed,” Kulas said. “We took a couple possessions off where we didn’t execute too well, so I think that was a key emphasis.”  

Junior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir was one of two Cardinals to score a team-high of 16 points. She did most of her damage from the mid-range area, but she also took a few shots from beyond the arc (2-for-4 from three). She also led the team in the rebounding category with eight rebounds.

Redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane was the second player to score 16 points. Coming off a career-high 24 points against Ohio, Clephane picked up right where she left off. She went a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. Two of those points came late in the fourth quarter when she stepped to the free-throw line and knocked in two shots to extend the Cardinal lead to five heading into the final minute. She also brought in six rebounds. 

The last double-digit scoring effort came from senior forward Oshlynn Brown, who totaled 11 points and six rebounds. She was in foul trouble the entire game, but when she was on the court, her presence opened up opportunities for others. 

“Pregame, we talked about going out here on the court and playing for each other,” Kulas said. “I think you saw that. We had multiple players step up.”

In the two team's last matchup on Dec. 2, the Cardinals allowed Eagles senior Areanna Combs to score 26 points. This time around, Combs still led Eastern Michigan in scoring with 19, but didn't shoot as efficiently. Combs finished the day 4-for-17 from the field.  

“We knew we were going to switch up our defenses a little bit, so I think that helped,” Kulas said. “Switching between man, switching between zone.”

Ball State will return to Worthen Arena Wednesday, Jan. 27, when they host Miami Ohio (1-12, 0-9 MAC). The game will begin at 7 p.m. 

Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at clbowles@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cbowles01.



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