For the first time in Ball State women’s basketball history, the Cardinals played a home game on national television.
While being on CBS Sports Network, the community showed up, the students showed up, the band and all, it was the whole package for head coach Brady Sallee, he said.
“It’s everything,” Sallee said.
With a crowd cheering on a home team playing well, Sallee said that this is exactly what every player signs up for.
Sallee remembers his first game at Worthen Arena alongside Audrey McDonald-Spencer, 12 years ago.
“I walked out to about 280 people,” Sallee said. “I looked at her and said, “We are going to change this.” Luckily we did quickly, this was built and built and built.”
Sallee said the fans come out for the players and see how they represent the Ball State name across their jerseys. His hope is the fans who came out today will talk about it to others, turning the 2-3 thousands into more and more.
Sallee thought about the 12 years of players that came through Ball State. The players who have changed the Ball State women’s basketball brand, he said.
“It has been a 12-year collective effort,” Sallee said.
“These 14 young ladies deserve it. They deserve to play on that stage and I am so thrilled for them that they performed the way that they did.”
The matchup came between two rivals, Ball State (16-2, 6-0 MAC) and Toledo (12-4, 5-1). With the 65-51 win for Ball State, the Cardinals now sit alone in the No. 1 seed in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Performing on a stage, Sallee said the team was locked in from the jump on the game plan.
“The plan is only half of it, they have to come out and ball,” Sallee said. “They did exactly that. We came out and played.”
Junior Ally Becki said the primetime spot brought excitement into the game, especially getting to face off against a rival school. Junior Madelyn Bischoff echoed Becki and said the home crowd played a big impact in the game.
In front of the crowd, it was a career night for Becki, who came into the contest only needing 10 points to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. In the second quarter with a free throw, she knocked in her 1,000th career point.
“It is awesome to do that in college, especially in my junior year,” Becki said. “I am just thankful for the people around me who gave me the ball and trust me enough to put the ball in the hoop.”
Coming into the second quarter, Ball State was down 17-12. Ten minutes later, the Cardinals went into halftime with a 10-point lead after outsourcing the Rockets 23-8.
“We got stops on the defensive end, and that is what helped us offensively,” Becki said about the second quarter.
With seconds left in the second quarter, a 35-foot shot from Bischoff hit the bottom of the net to beat the buzzer. The crowd erupted. Bischoff turned to Becki and celebrated the deep shot.
“I was really excited, me and Ally were pretty hype,” Bischoff said.
Out of halftime, it was all Ball State. The Cardinals forced Toledo to turn the ball over 23 times in the game. Sallee said the story of the game was the effort to turn the ball over. He said Toledo’s guard play is great, so for Ball State to turn them over that many times shows their defensive strength.
“Before the game, I asked them for intensity in everything we did,” Sallee said. “From top to bottom, they brought it.”
“It all started and stopped with effort. I thought our ability to sit down and guard the basketball, as simply as it sounds, was a big big part of this one.”
Becki said the team chemistry has progressively gotten better and that teammates are seeing each other more often on the court. She said they are able to work out what works best for them, what works in transition, who to get the ball too and more.
Bischoff said everyone on the court has trust in each other. She said that she trusts anyone with the ball, anyone to guard the ball and has an overall sense of playing together.
The win marks a 6-0 start in the MAC for Ball State. This is the best start to the conference season since the 2000-01 season.
The Cardinals will be back in Worthen Jan. 24 to take on Miami (OH) (4-12, 2-4 MAC) at 6:30 p.m.