In their first showing of the 2023-24 season, the Ball State Cardinals (1-0) displayed why there is excitement about what the team can accomplish over the next five months.
In a 97-64 win over the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (0-1), Ball State got contributions from all around as six players finished with double-digit points.
It’s head coach Brady Sallee’s fourth season-opening win during his 12 seasons as the Cardinals head coach. With an 11 a.m. tip-off due to Ball State’s annual Field Trip Day, it was important to get off to a fast start.
Points in the paint
The Cardinals wasted no time establishing their inside game early on in the contest. Their first 16 points of the game came from inside the key.
Using their full-court pressure, Ball State forced 26 turnovers that turned into runouts for easy layups. The Cardinals had 31 points off of turnovers, compared to just 18 for the Golden Eagles.
In the half court, the Golden Eagles operated a switch-heavy defense. The mismatches allowed juniors Alex Richard, Marie Kiefer and Annie Rauch, to have opportunities to score in close.
Richard provided the most impact inside. She went 7-for-9 (78 percent) from the field for a game-high 18 points. With that, she also earned multiple trips to the line, going 4-for-6 (67 percent) from the charity stripe.
Kiefer finished with 10 points, and Rauch added 11 points. Overall, Ball State outscored Tennessee Tech 54-to-32 in the paint as they flexed their muscle inside all afternoon.
2nd quarter separation
The game remained close for all of the first quarter, and well into the second quarter. With the Cardinals leading 24-22 in the second quarter, they turned up the pressure to create a large lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
A 19-4 Ball State run started with Rauch converting a layup through contact, earning her a trip to the line. After hitting the free throw, fastbreak layups from junior Ally Becki and sophomore Ana Barreto forced a Tennessee Tech timeout.
Barreto only appeared in 17 games last year for the Cardinals but came off the bench Monday and scored seven points during the run in the second quarter. She finished the game with 12 points.
The run came amidst a stint where some of Ball State’s bench was out on the floor. Rauch and sophomore Hana Mühl were both on the floor with Barreto for most of the second quarter. As a whole, the reserves put up 34 points.
The run gave the Cardinals momentum going into the locker room, and never looked back in the second half.
Junior Nyla Hampton suited up for the Cardinals for the first time Monday. It didn’t take the reigning Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year long to show her new supporters why she was worthy of the honor a year ago.
With five steals in the first half alone, Hampton created fast break opportunities for both her and her teammates. She was the driving force of the full-court pressure Ball State will show against most opponents this season. It’s why the Cardinals acquired her in the transfer portal after a decorated tenure at Bowling Green.
Hampton finished with just 6 points on the afternoon, going 3-for-7 (43 percent) from the field, but her impact on the Cardinals will be seen all over the stat sheet this season. She also added five assists paired with a final total of 8 steals for the game.
Becki compiled 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting. With Becki carrying the scoring load on the perimeter, it was easy to see how Hampton fits amongst a returning core that has high expectations for this season.