With the CBS Sports Network in town for a nationally televised game, the teams picked to finish one and two in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) squared off Sunday evening. In it, the Ball State Cardinals (16-2, 6-0 MAC) came away with a 65-51 statement win over the MAC preseason favorite Toledo Rockets (12-4, 5-1 MAC).
Here are three takeaways from Ball State’s win.
Two milestones in a matter of minutes
After a 36-point outing against Central Michigan Wednesday, junior Ally Becki came into Sunday’s contest just 10 points shy of 1,000 for her career.
Becki picked up right where she left off, scoring seven of Ball State’s twelve first-quarter points. She did it from all three levels as she got to the rim for layups, earned trips to the line and knocked in a 3-pointer.
Becki started the second period with a two-point jumper before earning another trip to the line. With nine minutes to go, she tacked on her 10th point, giving her 1,000.
Junior Nyla Hampton needed just one point in Sunday night’s game to achieve the same milestone.
Her moment came two minutes after Becki’s. Junior Madelyn Bischoff knocked down a 3-pointer and on the ensuing inbound, junior Marie Kiefer stole the pass and dished to Hampton, who laid it in, giving her 1,000 career points.
After 16 points Sunday, Becki is averaging just under 20 points per game since the calendar turned to 2024. Nyla Hampton also got to double-digit points, finishing the game with 10.
2nd quarter run
After Hampton’s layup, the Rockets called a timeout. Worthen Arena erupted in cheers not only because Becki’s and Hampton’s achievements were announced, but also because Ball State was in the midst of a 14-0 run to take the lead for the first time in the game.
In the first quarter, the Cardinals lacked any real offensive flow. Becki was able to salvage some possessions with her isolation moves, but her teammates shot 1-for-7 (14 percent) in the quarter, giving Toledo a 17-12 lead.
When the clock reset for the second 10 minutes of the game, so did Ball State.
A Bischoff 3-pointer gave the Cardinals their first lead with 7:18 left in the game and they never looked back. After Hampton’s layup, junior Alex Richard hit a turn-around jumper in the paint. The next possession down, Hampton had a right-handed scoop layup off the glass to cap off the run.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Becki and Bischoff stretched the lead to nine. With the score 32-25 and the half winding down, Toledo senior Sammi Mikonowicz missed a jumper. Becki rebounded the ball and passed it up the right side to Bischoff who was running the floor. Bischoff launched a 3-pointer from well beyond the line that found the bottom of the net, giving the Cardinals a 10-point advantage heading into the locker room.
Ball State shot 9-for-12 (75 percent) from the field in the second quarter, hitting four 3-pointers. On the other hand, the Rockets shot 4-for-13 (30 percent). The second quarter has been Ball State’s best in terms of point differential, as they are outscoring their opponents by a total of 80 points on the year.
It’s time for a conversation
According to collegeinsider.com, this was a matchup of the number three and number four teams in their mid-major poll. While it might be safe to say that this game proves that the Cardinals are one of, if not the best mid-major team in Division I women’s college basketball, could it mean more than that?
Ball State has played as good of a schedule as you can ask of a mid-major. Games against Notre Dame and UConn were losses, but the resume of wins they are building up is important to note.
They defeated two Power 5 opponents, the Pittsburgh Panthers and a tournament team from last year, the Georgia Bulldogs at the Sun Coast challenge.
They went on the road to pick up wins against St. Louis and Western Kentucky. Now, they just beat the preseason MAC favorite by double-digits on national television.
While there is still a lot of season left and there are so many examples that anything can happen in the MAC, it might not be long before Ball State gets off the mid-major top 25 poll and on to the same top 25 with some of the best teams in the sport.