Ball State Women’s Basketball (10-7, 3-4 MAC) is comprised of a mix of players who have been with Ball State for years like senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir, players who have experience elsewhere and now make an impact for the Cardinals like graduate transfer Chyna Latimer, or freshmen such as Ally Becki and Marie Kiefer.
Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals defeated Central Michigan (3-14,1-7 MAC) 57-45, and it took all of those aspects mixed into a team effort to do so.
Dis Agustsdottir led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Latimer stayed hot with 12 points and seven rebounds. Becki and Kiefer may not have lit up the scoring column, but their impact was shown more in the hustle stats and on the defensive end of the floor.
Becki scored nine points and made her presence felt with eight assists and four rebounds. Kiefer, coming off of a game head coach Brady Sallee said she was not happy with, ended up with 11 rebounds and four blocks, also scoring four points.
“I’ve been working on getting in there, rebounding the ball and getting tougher,” Kiefer said.
Sallee said it was great to see how well Kiefer looked today but is a better sign when looking toward the future.
“To see Marie (Kiefer) come out after a game where she wasn’t pleased with her rebounds and get 11 today, the big picture of that is way bigger than anything that shows up on the stat sheet,” Sallee said.
Becki leads the Cardinals in rebounds per game with an average of 5.4 rebounds although she is listed at 5’8” and she said being well rounded on the stat sheet is a product of how she likes to play.
“I feel like getting the ball in my hands and being able to help my teammates as well as myself is the best way for me to succeed,” Becki said.
Each of these freshmen echoed accountability as the biggest thing they have taken away from their more experienced teammates, with Kiefer noting how close it has brought the team together.
“It’s from an accountability standpoint,” Becki said, talking about what her teammates have taught her. “I know in shoot-around, for example, I was told to talk more on the court and it’s something they expect.”
After losing two straight, falling to Akron (7-5, 4-2 MAC) and Toledo (14-3, 8-0 MAC) consecutively, Sallee said his team really focused on getting better on the defensive end in practice. “I thought we had a couple really good days of prep and our players understood what we wanted them to do,” Sallee said. “We talk about how mental toughness affects different parts of the game and we’re seeing that [the players] want it.”
Many loose balls flew around the court, creating chances for the two rivals to dive for the ball and create jump balls, something Sallee said is just a part of the Cardinal way.
“When you put on a Ball State women’s jersey, these things are non-negotiable,” Sallee said. “One of the keys to winning this game was want-to and coming in, we had to want to win this game more than Central Michigan…we only turned them over 11 times but I thought we were a lot more disruptive than that.”
The Cardinals collectively had 47 rebounds compared to the Chippewas 38 and had 10 steals, along with five blocks. Where the Cardinals were successful, was their interior defense, allowing only eight points in the paint.
The Chippewas were led by junior guard Molly Davis who scored 17 points and snagged nine rebounds. Sallee gave props to Davis, saying “we respect their ability to score the ball, especially Molly Davis.”
This was the Cardinals' seventh game of the month, a jam-packed schedule that will continue for the rest of the season. Sallee said these stretches are just a part of the game and something that he has to prepare his team for.
“They have to trust me that what I’m having them do is positive and that I will get them off their feet as quickly and efficiently as I can,” Sallee said. “At the end of the day, you get to play ball. I know it’s easier said than done, I’m sure it feels like 600 straight days.” Becki did say that although the schedule can be tiring, she has faith in her coach.
“It’s definitely different from high school, but we trust him to do what he says,” Becki said. “I’m very fortunate just to keep playing these games.” The Cardinals will have a quick turnaround as they take on Miami (Ohio) (6-8, 2-3 MAC) in a make-up game on Monday, Jan. 24. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. EST from Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana.
Contact Kyle Smedley on Twitter @smedley1932 or via email at email@example.com