At certain points last year, head coach Brady Sallee was not sure if his team would take the floor this winter. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, and the Cardinals have completed a full conference schedule amid a global pandemic.
Ball State Women's Basketball (14-10, 12-8 MAC) closed its regular-season with a 76-69 win against Western Michigan (6-15, 5-14 MAC). The Cardinals not only won their first home game since Jan. 27 but gave the senior class a win in its final game at Worthen Arena.
“We do appreciate everybody sticking with us through this crazy year,” Sallee said. “These kids have sacrificed incredibly to get through this... They gave us the ability to go play 20 games in this league, and we played them all. We didn’t duck any of them."
Senior forward Oshlynn Brown scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, continuing her average of double-doubles. Ball State honored its two other senior players: guards Maliah Howard-Bass and Katie Helgason. When reflecting on this class, Sallee said, he believes while each of their paths were unique, they all made a lasting impact in the program.
“This is a special group because they stuck together for years,” Sallee said. “Everybody kind of had their own experience. Katie got hurt and had to medically [disqualify], but stuck with us. Maliah had some success early on, and I give her a ton of credit because our roster flipped, and her playing time changed... And, let me talk about Osh. I mean, she's one of the best that's ever been here, plain and simple — if not, the best."
Junior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir finished with a team-high 19 points, shooting 5 of 6 from deep and adding eight rebounds. Redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane also contributed 17 points and shot 9 of 12 from the free-throw line. Sophomore guard Sydney Freeman rounded out the last of double-digit scorers with 11 points.
As a whole, Sallee was pleased with how his offense stayed the course through four quarters against a tough defense.
"I was so impressed with their ability to keep their head down and keep doing what they're doing," Sallee said. "It wasn't quite going our way — the game was being played the way Western wanted — but we just kept going and going."
Ball State will shift its focus to the Mid-American Conference Tournament, taking place in Cleveland March 10-13. The Cardinals will enter the field as the No. 6 seed, facing Ohio (13-7, 11-6) March 10 in quarterfinal action. The two squads split their season series, with each road team winning on the opponents' home floor.
“At this time of year, I think it's a good thing when you can trust your basketball team,” Sallee said. “I trust this team, and hopefully, they get together and say, 'Listen, we're not coming home until Saturday at about 3 p.m.' If they can make that decision, I feel good about going up there.”