After senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir made a 3-pointer with five minutes and 27 seconds left in the first quarter, Ball State (15-10, 8-7 MAC) took a 5-2 lead against Western Michigan (14-11, 8-8 MAC).
The Cardinals never trailed again.
In its 73-67 win Feb. 21, Ball State snapped its three-game losing streak, and head coach Brady Sallee said the Cardinals displayed focus and toughness.
“I’m really proud of the group,” Sallee said. “The 40-minute effort that we gave tonight was really big. From start to finish, we were locked in. We answered their runs with some big buckets, and we were really balanced on our ends.”
After ending the first quarter tied at nine, the Cardinals scored six consecutive points to begin the second quarter. Ball State forced 12 turnovers and scored 15 fastbreak points, and Sallee said both played important roles.
“I thought we got out in transition,” Sallee said. “We got some big stops, and we made them turn it over, and we got out. We played, in that quarter, a lot faster. That was really the name of the game.”
Ball State placed four players in double figures, led by Dis Agustsdottir’s 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including four 3-pointers. During the three-game losing streak, Dis Agustsdottir never got into double figures but said she played with more determination against the Broncos.
“I feel like I was just hunting it more than I have been doing these past few games,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “I’d just been sitting around, letting other people do the scoring. I was more aggressive. It definitely helps when you see one of your first shots go in.”
Freshman Marie Kiefer posted a double-double, scoring 12 points and accumulating 11 rebounds. Her career-high five blocks were more than Western Michigan's total (four).
“We went into the game knowing we needed to get rebounds to win it,” Kiefer said. “We just went out and played hard. Coach [Sallee] taught me how to get blocks. I just went out there and played defense how I knew how, with my hands up.”
Freshman Ally Becki scored 12 points to go along with a game-high eight assists, five rebounds and two steals. Graduate student Chyna Latimer added 12 points and seven rebounds.
For Western Michigan, junior guard Sydney Shafer led all scorers with 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting off the bench. Redshirt sophomore forward Taylor Williams registered a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds, while sophomore guard Lauren Ross chipped in 13 points. Sallee said the Broncos' versatility posed issues, but the Cardinals had familiarity with the offense.
“[Western Michigan] is a tough team that presents some problems,” Sallee said. “They can play so many different lineups. At times, they played five guards, and then they bring in two 6’2” kids [Williams and redshirt senior Reilly Jacobson]. They can give you a lot of different looks. They run a really good offense, one that we ran in the past, so we know how good it is."
Ball State is tied for No. 4 in the Mid-American Conference with four games remaining but has not clinched a MAC Tournament berth. Kiefer said she knows what Ball State needs to do in order to get into the tournament and build some confidence.
“We’re going to have to have the will to and the want to,” Kiefer said. “We got to go out there and play like every other game and just get the job done.”
Dis Agustsdottir said rebounding will be the key to the Cardinals’ success in the postseason.
“I definitely think rebounding is what we’ve struggled with,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “We’ve been more up-and-down this season with that. We get that fixed, we’ll be in good shape.”
Ball State returns to the floor Feb. 23 in a rematch against Western Michigan. Tipoff is 7 p.m.