Statistically, the Cardinals played well enough to win.
But in conference games, numbers do not always tell the story. In this matchup, the outcome came down to which side took greater advantage of its possessions.
Ball State (4-5, 2-3 MAC) was unable to overcome a second-half deficit, eventually falling 70-61 to Kent State (5-2, 4-0 MAC). The Cardinals held a 21-17 lead after the first quarter, but following a 5-0 run from the Golden Flashes beginning the second quarter, Ball State could not retake the lead.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1. Brown hitting her stride
Despite the loss, senior forward Oshlynn Brown once again paced the Cardinals in both scoring and rebounding. The Preseason First Team All-MAC selection has lived up to the billing, notching double-doubles in four consecutive games.
Brown finished the afternoon with 16 points and 13 rebounds. She shot 8-for-15, which was good for 53 percent from the field. She provides the Cardinals with an efficient inside presence, which is vital with a tough Mid-American Conference stretch approaching.
When the Golden Flashes took a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, Brown refused to go down without a fight. She scored six points in the final minutes and eclipsed 10 rebounds during that stretch.
2. Second opportunities and bench points
The Golden Flashes outrebounded the Cardinals 43-33. Although the gap might not seem large, Kent State took advantage of its extra rebounds, creating extra possessions for its offense. Kent State also outscored Ball State 17-2 in second chance points.
Sophomore forward Nila Blackford led Kent State with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and she benefited from these extra possessions with easy looks at the rim. Blackford, who came off the bench, was one of many Golden Flashes reserves to make their imprint on the game.
One last stat where Kent State got the best of Ball State came in bench points, as the Golden Flashes outscored the Cardinals 51-11 in that category.
3. Booker's absence
Junior guard Essence Booker went down in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury. Coming into the day averaging 11.6 points per game, she struggled getting off the court and eventually left the sideline on crutches. The severity of her injury is unknown.
Should Booker miss time moving forward, some names Ball State could rely on to fill her shoes at guard include senior Maliah Howard-Bass, junior Ella Skeens and freshman Ivet Suibrats. Suibrats is Booker’s primary backup and has shown flashes in the first half of her freshman season, while Howard-Bass has been around the program for four years with experience in MAC play. Finally, Skeens — a transfer from Dayton — was granted eligibility in December.
Junior guard Krystal Rice did not travel with the team due to a non-COVID-19 related illness. Her status going forward is unknown.
The Cardinals return to action Wednesday, Jan. 13, facing off against Ohio (5-3, 3-2 MAC) on the road. In last year's meeting, the Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 79-71.