Hampton, Ball State flip the script in road win over Ohio

Junior Nyla Hampton looks to dribble to the basket against Buffalo Jan. 10 at Worthen Arena. Hampton made 12 points in the first half. Kate Tilbury, DN
Junior Nyla Hampton looks to dribble to the basket against Buffalo Jan. 10 at Worthen Arena. Hampton made 12 points in the first half. Kate Tilbury, DN

After Ball State’s (22-3, 11-1) Feb. 7 road loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies, head coach Brady Sallee chalked up the defeat to a random night of missed layups, missed 3-pointers and missed free throws. 

Saturday’s matchup against the Ohio Bobcats (7-16, 4-8 MAC) was the Cardinals’ first time back on the road since its loss against the Huskies. Through most of the first half, the game was taking on a similar storyline.

Ball State trailed by as many as 17 points Saturday afternoon. Despite that, the Cardinals flipped the script with their effort and outscored Ohio by 32 points the rest of the way, leading to a 75-60 win.

Junior Ally Becki left for the bench halfway through the first quarter after picking up her second foul. The Bobcats were able to stretch the lead to as much as 15 points while Becki was on the bench. With just under five minutes left in the second period, Becki came back into the game. By then, the Cardinals were 0-for-12 from 3-point distance, had 10 turnovers, and trailed 31-16.

Sallee said he “wasn’t shocked” at the slow start because of how his team practiced the day before.

Ohio was able to execute what it wanted against Ball State’s full-court pressure. They had a number of fastbreak layups and easy buckets, all the while taking care of the ball. The Cardinals were forced to back off its pressure in the second half. Sallee noted that while Ohio had a good game plan against the press, Ball State’s effort wasn’t up to par. 

“You gotta play hard if you're going to press,” Sallee said. 

Things started to turn for the Cardinals when they ended the half on a 10-2 run with 3-pointers from sophomore Ana Barretto and senior Estel Puiggros making the Cardinal deficit just single digits. In the locker room, Sallee’s message was simple More hustle plays needed to be made.

Sallee said wanted his team to take the ball to the rim more and also attack the offensive glass. Both of those categories turned out to be huge advantages for the Cardinals in the second half.

Even though Ball State has had trouble rebounding against a number of opponents this year, they dominated the boards Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals pulled down 46 rebounds, including 17 offensive rebounds, compared to Ohio’s 28.

“[Rebounding] is something I would like to see us do consistently, I think it would make us even better than we have been,” Sallee said.

The Cardinals attacked the rim and got to the free throw line at will in the second half. They shot 22 free throws in the final 20 minutes, making 18 of them (81 percent). For the game, Ball State shot 38 free throws at a 79 percent clip. 

Junior Nyla Hampton executed many of the hustle plays Sallee was looking for. The 5-foot-7 guard pulled down 11 rebounds with six of them being offensive. Ball State backed off its usual full-court team pressure to start the second half, but Hampton was still providing full-court pressure herself. 

“I think what you saw was a young lady that understands winning, and she's willing to do anything and everything it takes to win,” Sallee said. “We needed every 39 minutes, and how many seconds of her effort level.”

WBB v Ohio 2.JPG
Junior Ally Becki dribbles the ball against Ohio Feb. 3 at Worthen Arena. Becky scored eight points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Hampton was on the floor for all but 26 seconds Saturday. She has led the team in scoring for various games this year and led the team in assists at times this season. Her defense is what she’s known for, but Saturday, she led the team in rebounds. Hampton said she’s always looking to find the area her team needs the most during the game. 

“My biggest focus while playing is just impacting the team in a good way,” Hampton said. “It’s always on my mind.”

With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Hampton gave Ball State its first lead since the opening minutes of the game with a 3-pointer. Then, perhaps the most telling moment of effort being a difference-maker for the Cardinals took place with under a minute to play in the third quarter. 

With the score 54-53, senior Annie Rauch missed a free throw for a chance at a three-point play. Ohio players didn’t go for the rebound, potentially thinking there was another free throw coming. Instead, junior Marie Kiefer grabbed the rebound and made a pass to Hampton for a layup to put Ball State up by three. Ball State did not trail for the rest of the game.

“There wasn't even a thought of taking her off the floor in the second half because [Hampton] was that impactful for us,” Sallee said.

Hampton said any road win is hard to come by. With the win, the Cardinals avoided a road-game losing streak and a losing streak in Mid-American Conference play.

Ball State has played most of its games from in front this season. There have been a select few where they’ve had to come from behind like they did Saturday. Sallee said games like these are a reminder that anything can happen as the postseason draws near.

“When you get to march [and] you have a night where you're not locked in or you're not feeling it or whatever it may be, you go home,” Sallee said. “There's a chance we see [Ohio] again in Cleveland, so we're certainly going to have to make sure that we don't show up with his mindset and this effort level.”

Ball State returns to Worthen Arena Wednesday against Central Michigan with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Contact Caleb Zuver via email at cmzuver@bsu.edu or on X @zuves35.


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