Catholics v Cardinals. Ball State Women’s Basketball (2-2) faced the ninth-best women’s basketball team in the nation (Associated Press poll), Notre Dame (4-0), with the Fighting Irish winning 95-60. Although it was a one-sided showing for most of the game, Ball State head coach Brady Sallee said this game would make the Cardinals better in the long run, and gave credit to Irish head coach, Niele Ivey, for scheduling a home-and-home with Ball State, noting Notre Dame is scheduled to visit Ball State in the 2023-24 season.
Ball State led Notre Dame early
After Katryna Gaither’s induction to the Notre Dame Hall of Fame, the long pre-game hype video and the pump-up song before tip-off, Ball State came out red hot… against No. 9 Notre Dame.
Ball State led for the first four minutes and 55 seconds… against No. 9 Notre Dame.
Ball State led at six minutes and 43 seconds … against No. 9 Notre Dame.
The Cardinals were led in these two stretches by sophomore Madelyn Bischoff. While the Cardinals led 11-6 (against No. 9 Notre Dame), Bischoff had nine of those 11 in only four minutes and 30 seconds.
Even if the initial lead was only for 4:55, and about 10 seconds the second time, it is still something to point out that Ball State was beating the ninth-best team in the nation for any stretch.
The Irish broke down the Cardinal defense
After pressing in their first three games, it was rare to see the Cardinals pressing the Irish as the contest unfolded.
When the Cardinals did press, as few times as that was, Notre Dame was easily able to advance the ball down the court.
Sophomore guard Oliva Miles led the Irish in their press-breaking effort, and at halftime she had six assists, nine points, and five rebounds. At the end of the game, she had 11 assists, 13 points, and seven rebounds.
The Irish relied heavily on graduate student Dara Mabrey for points. Mabrey was 5-8 from three in the first half alone, in which she had 19 points. When the final buzzer rang, Mabrey was held scoreless in the second half.
The Cardinals significantly struggled in stopping Notre Dame from deep in the first half. The Irish were 6-12 (50%) from deep at halftime and 7-17 (41%) total.
A real problem was stopping the Irish in transition, with Miles running the offense on fast breaks, and the seeming threat of Mabrey anywhere within a mile from the three-point line, the Cardinals had their hands full trying to stop Notre Dame.
Rebounding troubled Ball State for the entirety of the game, Notre Dame outrebounded the Cardinals 50-24, a 26 rebound differential.
At the end of the game, Notre Dame had six players in double digits. As a team, they shot 54% from the field.
That high percentage of shooting from the Irish would not be the same for the Cardinals, as they finished 32% from the field.
Even if things were one-sided for the majority of the game, the Cardinals did have their moments.
With all the problems Ball State had trying to stop Notre Dame, one thing was consistent with all previous games before this one. Forcing turnovers.
The Cardinals forced 12 turnovers from the Irish in the first half, and 23 turnovers throughout the whole game, winning the turnover battle 23-15.
Graduate student Thelma Dis Agustsdottir showed much improvement compared to her previous performances, finishing with 11 points and 3-5 shooting from beyond the arch. With Bischoff shining early into the game, she continued to lead Ball State in the second half, finishing with 11 points.
It was unusual not to see redshirt junior Anna Clephane and sophomore Ally Becki leading the Cardinals as they had in the previous games, but it was apparent the depth Sallee frequently has been talking about all year was going to benefit the Cardinals. Freshman Sydney Bolden and Alex Richard added eight points off the bench each.
Even if the Cardinals were not shooting the three-point shot with high efficiency, they were able to improve from their previous performances.