In front of a record-setting crowd at Worthen Arena on Black Friday, the Ball State Cardinals (5-1) undefeated season came to an end as they fell to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0) by a score of 90-59.
It was Notre Dame’s second-ever trip to Muncie, with the last one coming in the 1980-81 season. Last year, the Fighting Irish defeated Ball State 95-60 in South Bend.
Hannah Hidalgo hard to stop
Fighting Irish freshman Hannah Hidalgo was the fifth-highest-rated recruit in ESPN’s HoopGurlz Rankings. Through her first five games, she was averaging 25 points per game along with six steals per game.
Against Ball State, Hidalgo nearly eclipsed both of those averages in the first quarter.
Hidalgo had a pair of layups to help the Fighting Irish go up 9-0 to start the game. Ball State stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer by junior Madelyn Bischoff with seven minutes left in the opening period.
On the ensuing possession, the Cardinals lost Hidalgo on a sideline out-of-bounds play, leaving her wide open for a left-wing three that found the bottom of the net. Bischoff answered with another three before Hidalgo came right back with another one of her own. Through just more than four minutes in the quarter, Hidalgo had 10 points.
In the back half of the quarter, Hidalgo’s defense gave Ball State trouble. She had two steals that led to wide-open breakaway layups for herself.
After adding another 3-pointer with a minute left in the period, she was up to 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting (70 percent) and had four steals. She outscored the Cardinals by five points and helped give Notre Dame a 13-point lead after the first quarter.
Key categories create the first-half difference
Notre Dame never looked back after opening up a double-digit lead in the first quarter. There were a few stats that tell the story.
Coming into the matchup, Ball State had gotten outrebounded by opponents by an average of 1.6 per game, while Notre Dame was outrebounding opponents by 12 per game. In the first half, the Fighting Irish imposed their will on the boards, as they were +15 in the rebounding column. For the game, it finished 48 to 20.
Points in the paint were another area where the Cardinals fell short. They outscored Ball State 24-4 in the paint in the first half. Whether it was fast break layups, offensive rebound putbacks, or post-ups, Ball State wasn’t able to match the height and athleticism of Notre Dame.
Through their first five games this season, the Cardinals averaged 18.2 assists per game. The Fighting Irish were able to shut that down too. The Ball State had multiple unforced turnovers in the first quarter due to miscommunications on offense.
Notre Dame's defense closed off passing lanes and forced Ball State to take difficult shots late in the shot clock all night.
Due to the rebounding numbers and 13 steals, Notre Dame was able to get out on the break and convert. Twenty-seven Fighting Irish fastbreak points compared to just six for the Cardinals created even more separation on the scoreboard.
Record-attendance in Worthen
5,442 people showed up to Worthen Arena Friday evening, making it the biggest crowd in Ball State women’s basketball history.
The opportunity to play host to a high-level opponent in the non-conference was earned due to Ball State’s success in the last few seasons. The Cardinals have been in contention for a mid-American conference championship.
Schools like Notre Dame see the benefit of playing a high mid-major opponent, while Ball State gets a chance to play a program that has made multiple Final Fours in the last decade.
Not only is it beneficial for both of the teams on the court, but a high-profile program traveling to a team of the Cardinals’ stature helps the excitement around women’s basketball.
Friday’s attendance had over 1,000 more fans than the men’s game earlier in the day. The Muncie community came out to watch programs that have been successful in their own rights and supported the women’s basketball product on Black Friday.