Cardinals season comes to end at hands of Marquette in first round of WNIT

Freshman Ally Becki dribbles the ball on the court against Bowling Green on Feb. 5, 2022, at Worthen Arena in Muncie, IN. Becki scored 15 points during the game. Amber Pietz, DN
Freshman Ally Becki dribbles the ball on the court against Bowling Green on Feb. 5, 2022, at Worthen Arena in Muncie, IN. Becki scored 15 points during the game. Amber Pietz, DN

After 33 games, it's over.

Ball State Women’s Basketball’s (20-13, 11-8 MAC) season concluded.In its first round matchup of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) against Marquette (22-10, 13-7 Big East) March 16 in a 90-73 loss.

“I think we left it all in Cleveland,” Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said. “These kids poured it all into that week.” 

After knocking off No. 4 seed Northern Illinois (14-15, 11-9 MAC) and No. 1 seed Toledo (26-5, 19-1 MAC), Ball State fell short in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament Championship game against No. 2 seed Buffalo (25-8, 16-4 MAC). 

Sallee said three games and five days later, Ball State was exhausted. He credited the Golden Eagles for their performance but said the Cardinals fell victim to their lack of energy. 

“We just couldn’t dig deep enough to play at the tempo we normally play at,” Sallee said. “You’ve not seen us get beat in transition like that all year.” 

Marquette scored 33 fastbreak points in comparison to Ball State’s six. The Golden Eagles placed with four players in double digits, including a 24-point performance from senior guard Karissa McLaughlin Junior forward Chloe Marotta added 19 points and 17 rebounds. 

Sallee said although it isn’t the outcome the Cardinals hoped for, he believes Ball State can use its experience to its advantage moving forward. 

“The only real way to get experience is to experience it,” Sallee said. “We’re going to have to go through that same week [in Cleveland], come down off an emotional high and be able to prepare for a really good team. That’s why I think it’s important for us to get an opponent like Marquette.” 

Ball State Women's Basketball head coach Brady Sallee calls a play from the sideline on Nov. 3 at Worthen Arena. Eli Houser, DN

The Cardinals roster will look similar for the 2022-23 season as senior Blake Smith is the lone graduating player. Sallee said players like freshman Ally Becki, who led the Cardinals in scoring with 22 points, will see their leadership roles increase. 

“The one thing this team has learned is how to build chemistry,” Sallee said. “Blake was a big part of that, and somebody is going to have to fill that role, but in terms of the core we’re returning, we’re excited about that.” 

Sallee said while he’s excited most of Ball State’s players are returning for next season, the Cardinals won’t win games based on their roster on paper. 

“That alone isn’t worth anything unless you take action,” Sallee said. “We have to do the work and be motivated. We’ve got to use this momentum the right way.”

Through injuries and COVID-19, Sallee said Ball State's buy-in and ability in dealing with adversity never wavered.

“Through Anna [Clephane] going down, Estel [Puiggros] going down, COVID hitting, having to play three games in five days multiple times, to see how this team came out of it, we just kept getting stronger and stronger,” Sallee said. “Those are the things I’ll remember about this group and really cherish.”

As the lights turned out on the Cardinals season, Becki embodied Ball State’s attitude toward next season in the press conference following the Cardinal's loss in the MAC Championship. 

“We’ll be back,” Becki said. “We’re here and we’re going to stay here.”

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments at or on Twitter @smedley193.


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