With one second remaining in the fourth quarter, freshman Ally Becki attempted a 3-pointer. It was the Cardinals final opportunity to force overtime and keep their chance of winning six consecutive games alive.
The shot did not fall.
Ball State (14-8, 7-5 MAC) dropped its first game since Jan. 19 in a 64-61 loss against Kent State (15-7, 7-6 MAC).
“When your margin for error on the road is so slim and you’re not tough enough to finish a layup or get your butt down to defend, it’ll come back to haunt you,” head coach Brady Sallee said.
Sallee said Ball State played hard during stretches but didn't match the Golden Flashes toughness in important moments.
“I don’t think the toughness was an issue for 40 minutes,” Sallee said. “I think in the moments late in the game, Kent State was tougher. In a game like this, it comes down to the little things.”
Kent State outrebounded Ball State 34-30 and recorded five steals in comparison to the Cardinals four. Junior guard Katie Shumate led the Golden Flashes with 20 points, and Sallee said she played an integral role in the victory.
“In those moments where toughness is the difference, one team is going to win and the other will lose,” Sallee said. “I thought Katie [Shumate] was the difference.”
The Cardinals were paced by junior Sydney Freeman with 17 points, while Becki posted her second career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Since their 54-51 loss against Kent State Jan. 9, the Cardinals had won six of their last eight and five straight. Sallee said Ball State has the opportunity to improve from this loss by emphasizing toughness and understanding its benefit when shots are not falling.
“I think we’re good with the potential to be great,” Sallee said. “We continue to build our toughness where even if we don’t make a bunch of shots, we can still be in games.”
Sallee said the Cardinals will turn this result into a positive and be motivated moving forward.
“We’ll own why we didn’t win today and learn from it,” Sallee said. “These [losses] stick in your crawl a little bit and hopefully this will put a fire in the girls.”
The Cardinals return to action Feb. 16 against Buffalo (16-8, 10-4 in MAC). Tipoff is 6:30 p.m.