With water bottles flying and Cardinals shouting and smiling, celebration was had following Ball State Women’s Basketball’s 78-58 victory over Ohio. Though he was already the winningest head coach in the history of Ball State University Basketball–Men’s or Women’s–Brady Sallee achieved his 200th win as a Cardinal.
After yet another milestone for the 11th-year head coach, he predictably gave credit to those around him. Sallee thanked former Ball State Athletic Directors Bill Scholl, who hired him, Beth Goetz, who held the position from 2018-2022, and Ken Bothof, who currently holds the position. He thanked former Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora and current President Geoffrey S. Mearns.
He thanked Assistant Coach Audrey McDonald-Spencer, who has been on Sallee’s coaching staff during his entire tenure, making it known this was her 200th win as a coach as well. And above all, he thanked those who take the court every week.
“It's always about the players,” Sallee said. “You don't you don't get to a milestone like this unless you've got a great group of young ladies through the last 11 years that have bought in, put up with me and, let's face it, at the end of the day made me look pretty good.”
Thelma Dis Agustsdottir has been coached by Sallee since the 2018-19 season, playing in 140 of Sallee’s 336 games at Ball State. The two have formed a “special” relationship on and off the court over these five years, and the graduate student gave her head coach his roses.
“It’s definitely something that he has had to work hard for,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “My first year here we won eight games. I’ve been here for a while, [and] I’m just really happy for him and the way that he’s accomplished this over the years.”
Sallee said he knows she and many other players he has coached will be a part of the program “forever”, and was reflective of the past when taking time to soak in his accomplishment.
“It's just a time to look back and really realize how lucky we all are and how much you love those kids,” Sallee said. “You're awfully proud of them for being able to go out there and succeed at a level not only they have done on the floor, but these kids that have moved on and become mothers and doctors and lawyers, you name it. I sure do enjoy seeing that success as well.”
The Cardinals’ fifth win in a row and sixth conference win did end up being a one-sided affair, with Ball State (17-4, 6-1 MAC) holding the lead for 36:28 of the 40-minute contest, though there were three lead changes in the first quarter and the Bobcats (3-16, 1-7 MAC) put up a fight in the first half.
“If you get your feelings hurt in the first five minutes because a team is playing with you, well then you're going to lose focus on what the job at hand is,” Sallee said. “You got to have precision, you got to be methodical, you gotta understand that you're not going to hit a 20-point shot to start the game, so you're going to have to work your way through that kind of a win.”
Even after a closely-contested first quarter, the Cardinals never seemed out of control against the Bobcats. Whether it was 49 percent shooting from the field, 17 forced turnovers leading to 21 points or a victory on the boards (38-36), the Cardinals fired on all cylinders en route to victory.
The Bobcats did all they could, but it wasn’t enough to stay in the contest, especially in the second half. While the Cardinals were seen smiling and high-fiving after sophomore Ally Becki made a layup and drew a foul to put Ball State up 14 late in the third quarter, sophomore guard Yaya Felder, who led Ohio with 19 points, was subbed out for the game late in the fourth quarter and was seen crying in frustration with the Bobcats down more than 20.
Becki had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists while still sporting a black eye more than a week after receiving it in practice. She was one of the four Cardinals who were in double-digit scoring figures, along with redshirt senior Anna Clephane who led all scorers with 20 points, Dis Agustsdottir with 18 points and sophomore Marie Kiefer with 11 points and seven rebounds.
“We just know each other really well,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “We’re such good friends on and off the court, [and] it's easy to trust your teammates when maybe someone's not having a great game, it's easy to trust the people on the team to step up and hit a shot for you or get that stop for you,” Dis Agustsdottir said.
Ahead of the season, Sallee said he felt the Cardinals could win in many different ways, whether that be a high-scoring shootout, a defensive battle or anything in between. Today, he and Dis Agustsdottir each felt it was the aforementioned tempo and defensive effort that separated Ball State from the Bobcats.
After a 6-1 start in Mid-American Conference (MAC) play, Sallee said he thinks the Cardinals embrace the importance of these contests, rather than shying away from the moment.
“Teams that have special years are the ones that embrace adversity, and learn from it and grow from it,” Sallee said. “You can't get in your feelings, because you have to use it and that's what this team does. They learn lessons in wins and learn lessons in losses. They are in the middle of games, they play through adversity, they don't get rattled and have a real true understanding of what it takes to win games.”
Ball State looks to continue its undefeated season at home and extend its winning streak to six when the Cardinals take on Northern Illinois (10-9, 2-6 MAC) Wednesday, February 1, at 6:30 p.m. in Muncie, Indiana.
Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KyleSmedley_.