After being the first team to clinch a spot in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament, Ball State Women’s Basketball is now locked in at the No. 3 seed. With two games to go, Bowling Green and Ball State were in second and third place in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), respectively.
In the Cardinals and Falcons’ previous meeting, the first conference matchup of the season, Ball State triumphed 81-73. Since starting conference play 12-1, the Cardinals have lost three of their last four games, including their 81-76 overtime loss to Bowling Green (25-4, 14-3 MAC).
Both Ball State (23-7, 13-4 MAC) and Bowling Green went into this contest looking to bounce back, as the Cardinals lost their previous game to Toledo (24-4, 15-2) 72-70, and the Falcons were blown out 84-66 at home by Buffalo (11-15, 6-11) in their last outing. This is the first time in the 2022-23 season Ball State has lost two games in a row.
In Ohio, there were 44 total fouls, however, the Cardinals’ 44 percent shooting compared to Bowling Green’s finished 22-31 (71 percent) line was a key factor. So too was a season-high in a regrettable category.
“You can't go 11-25 from the free throw line and turn it over 22 times,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “We probably could have gotten away with the turnovers, clearly, if we would’ve made free throws. That's clearly the tough stat in there.”
In particular, sophomore Ally Becki, who finished with 19 points and six rebounds, missed two free throws in a row with seven seconds left in regulation, leading to the Falcons getting the ball and forcing overtime. Sallee said the Cardinals will “get in the gym” and work on free throws in the days to come.
“There is a toughness component to standing up on the line in somebody else’s gym and being able to knock ‘em down,” Sallee said. “We certainly didn't get that part of it done today.”
The Cardinals scored the least points in a quarter they had all season in the first 10 minutes, as the Falcons built a 22-8 lead heading into the second quarter. However, Sallee said it came as no surprise Ball State cut it to 32-27 at halftime.
Senior guard Elissa Brett had 18 points in the first half for Bowling Green, finishing the game with 20 and nine rebounds.
As the third quarter began, the Cardinals continued their momentum, tying the game with 3:44 left in the quarter. Ball State grabbed its first lead of the game off of two free throws from sophomore Marie Kiefer with 42 seconds left in the third. The Cardinals outscored the Falcons 38-22 in the second and third quarters combined.
With over 10 lead changes in the entire contest, the fourth quarter saw Ball State and Bowling Green trade blows, eventually going into overtime. Redshirt senior Anna Clephane started overtime out hot for the Cardinals, banking in a 3-pointer.
However, foul trouble began to set in for each side as Falcons senior forward Allison Day fouled out with 16 points and eight rebounds early. Right after, Kiefer fouled out with 22 points and 11 rebounds, a season-high in scoring.
After a couple of minutes had passed, Clephane fouled out when attempting to steal the ball back after she turned it over. She finished with 15 points.
In the final 3:56 of overtime, the Falcons went on a 13-3 run to close and had four players finish in double figures.
Broadcast on ESPNU, this was the first nationally televised game in program history for Ball State. Sallee said whenever the Cardinals and Falcons clash, those watching see two competitive teams with a lot of pride going at it, no matter the stage.
“I think we could play on the blacktop in the middle of August and play with chips on our shoulders,” Sallee said. “Every time we play, it's just like that. So whether it's on ESPNU or whether it was on Nickelodeon, I don't think it would have mattered.”
After a game that came down to the last shot against Toledo and a game with five extra minutes played against Bowling Green, the Cardinals are perhaps getting a sneak peek at the battles that may come when competing for the MAC Championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s March basketball, this is what it is,” Sallee said. “It just comes with the territory.”
The Cardinals return to action in the final game of the regular season against Miami (OH) (12-18, 7-10 MAC) Mar. 4 at 1 p.m.
Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @KyleSmedley_.