After a non-conference schedule that saw them drop just two games to Notre Dame and UConn, the Ball State Cardinals (11-3, 1-0 MAC) began Mid-American Conference (MAC) play with a 78-56 road win against the Western Michigan Broncos (5-6, 0-1 MAC).
Here are three takeaways from Ball State’s win.
Becki and Hampton create open looks
The Cardinals have seen multiple players contribute and lead them in scoring in different games this year. Wednesday, seven different people notched points in the scoring column in the first half with juniors Ally Becki and Nyla Hampton setting them up in positions to succeed.
A big reason why junior Madelyn Bischoff is seventh in the country in 3-pointers per game (3.36) is because of the attention Ally Becki draws from the defense. Becki is able to use the attention from the defense to give Bischoff the ball in places where she can operate. With the score 2-2 early in the game Becki found Bischoff for a wide-open 3-pointer to start a 16-7 run.
Becki continued to generate good looks for her teammates later in the quarter. With just over two minutes to play in the period, she lobbed the ball to senior Annie Rauch who had post position down low. Rauch grabbed the ball, dribbled into her defender and converted a layup through contact for an and-one.
Hampton set up junior Marie Kiefer for her 10th point of the half after a dish for an easy layup. The very next possession, she picked up her third assist by finding Becki for a 3-pointer near the top of the key.
Becki and Hampton combined for seven assists in the first half, giving Ball State a 34-19 lead.
If Ball State wants to win the MAC championship, Kiefer is going to need to put up performances like the one she had in the conference opener. While asking Kiefer to start the game 4-for-4 from the field every game seems unachievable, her impact was felt on both ends throughout the game.
With the score 21-11, she assisted on a fastbreak layup by senior Estel Puiggros. After that, she had a blocked shot and eight straight points to extend the Cardinal lead going into the half.
Kiefer has struggled with foul trouble early in games this year. A few times this year she’s had to be subbed out before the first media timeout because of two quick fouls. In fact, in five of its 13 games this year, she’s picked up four fouls.
In games earlier this year at Saint Louis and Western Kentucky, Kiefer made plays in the fourth quarter that helped the Cardinals win. Wednesday she started the game in that mode. She finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and just one personal foul.
When Kiefer plays like this, complemented with how Hampton and Becki played on the perimeter, Ball State can be dangerous both inside and out.
Play of the game
With Western Michigan trying to claw its way back into the game early in the fourth quarter, a sequence of events took place that encapsulated the brand of basketball the Cardinals have played this season.
Becki had been getting to the bucket on her drives whenever she wanted to for the majority of the second half. With the score 60-49 with over two minutes gone by, she drove from the left corner to the middle of the key and scooped a right-handed shot off of the back rim and in.
A Broncos miscommunication on the inbound led to the ball rolling out in the middle of the court. Hampton picked it up and immediately recognized that she had a 2-on-1 situation with Bischoff to her left.
Hampton drove into the defender underneath the rim and wrapped a dazzling pass around her back to Bischoff for an easy layup, forcing a Western Michigan timeout.
The sequence showcased the individual playmaking, defense and sharing of the ball that made the Cardinals one of the favorites in the preseason.