4 takeaways from Ball State’s first home conference win versus Buffalo

Senior Estel Puiggros dribbles toward the basket against Buffalo Jan. 10 at Worthen Arena. Kate Tilbury, DN
Senior Estel Puiggros dribbles toward the basket against Buffalo Jan. 10 at Worthen Arena. Kate Tilbury, DN

The Ball State women’s basketball team (13-2, 3-0 MAC) earned their first home Mid-American Conference (MAC) victory of the season Wednesday night.

The Cardinals overcame a slow start and a stellar performance from Buffalo fifth-year Chellia Watson to stay undefeated in conference play. Here are four takeaways from their win. 

Cold start

Despite Ball State coming into the game with a better overall record and conference record, the first quarter of Wednesday’s contest is a perfect example of why the games are played on the court.

The very first possession told the story of what the first 10 minutes looked like.

After the Cardinals won the opening tip, junior Ally Becki held the ball on the left wing for a few seconds, scanning the defense. She passed the ball to junior Madelyn Bischoff who also held it for a few seconds. When she went to pass the ball back to the left wing, Becki had already gone backdoor for a cut, leading to a turnover.

The Bulls (7-6, 1-2 MAC) jumped out to an 8-0 lead with Ball State missing their first six shot attempts. Once the Cardinals finally got on the board with a 3-pointer from junior Nyla Hampton, Buffalo came right back with their own 3-pointer from fifth-year Chellia Watson.

In fact, Ball State would hit two more shots from behind the arc in the quarter, with both of them answered by buckets Watson either scored or assisted on.

Watson was unstoppable early on and a big reason why Buffalo led by 18 points after the first period. Averaging just over 22 points per game, she had 17 in the first quarter. Watson was hitting everything from floaters, mid-range pull-ups and tacked on three 3-pointers. 

The way back

The Cardinals started the second quarter with a 3-pointer by Bischoff. A few minutes later with the score 29-14, senior Estel Puiggros had a 3-point attempt blocked out of bounds. On the inbounds, Hampton missed a 3-pointer of her own. Bischoff grabbed an offensive rebound and passed the ball to Becki, who also missed from downtown. Puiggros pulled down the miss and found Becki cutting for an easy layup.

The play started a 10-0 run to get the lead back to single digits. Five Becki assists and a pair of threes continued to propel the Cardinals and made it just a four point deficit going into the break.

Ball State took its first lead of the contest with 6:28 left in the third quarter with a Bischoff 3-pointer from the top of the key.

While it wasn’t a great start to the game, Ball State showed a lot of resilience to come back and retake the lead. 

Free throws in the last five minutes

At the fourth quarter under five minute media timeout, Ball State trailed 58-60. A couple of and-one baskets from the Bulls in the fourth quarter saw them retake the lead. 

Out of the timeout, Bischoff drove from the top of the key to the left block and converted on a power layup. After Buffalo went up by two with a pair of free throws, the teams traded stops. 

With just over two minutes remaining, Bischoff received a pass on a fade screen to the right corner. She drove and dished to senior Annie Rauch who converted on a layup through contact and earned a trip to the line. She missed the free throw, but an offensive rebound by Becki saved the possession. Two more free throws by Puiggros gave Ball State the lead with a minute and a half to go. 

After a stop, Bischoff earned a trip to the line. She converted both to put her team up four points. A pair of stops was enough for Ball State to hold on.

For the game, Ball State went 9-for-13 (69 percent) at the free throw line, with four of them coming in the last two minutes of the game.

Becki and Hampton shoulder the load

Even though Bischoff is 10th in the country in 3-point percentage (47.8 percent) this season, she couldn’t hit them with consistency Wednesday, going 3-for-10 (30 percent)  Hampton stepped up in her absence, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half and finishing with a team-high 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting (86 percent).

Along with that, she drew the assignment of guarding Watson for most of the evening. While Watson exploded in the first quarter, she was held to just 11 points the rest of the way. With under a minute to go, Hampton forced Watson into a traveling violation, giving the Cardinals the ball back.

Becki finished with a near triple-double Wednesday night. She had 13 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and added four steals. 

The duo didn’t come off the floor at all in the first half and ended up playing over 38 minutes in the win. 

Contact Caleb Zuver via email at cmzuver@bsu.edu or on X @zuves35.


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