Going into the game, head coach Brady Sallee was not expecting anything out of the top two team matchup in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The only thing he expected was for Ball State to play hard.
“We can win a lot of different ways, we have done it all year,” Sallee said. “I know who I got.”
Sallee said the group has a will to win games. He said everyone on the team trusts everybody. With trust, the team is able to win with so many options, causing problems for any opponent.
“If the shoe was on the other foot, what would you do, and how would you approach us?” Sallee said. “At the end of the day, a ho-hum another 11-point win.”
Out of the top-ranked MAC matchup, Ball State (19-2, 9-0 MAC) defeated Kent State (13-6, 7-2 MAC) 57-46.
Senior Annie Rauch expected a dogfight of a game.
“A lot of people will look at this and [say] “man it was ugly,” then those people do not get it,” Sallee said. “If you are going to play at the top of the league, you have to win, however you win it.”
Sallee said holding Kent State to 46 points was a “work of art.” He said the defense was able to be the difference in the win.
Rauch was a spark the Cardinals needed off the bench. She finished with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting with seven rebounds. Sallee said Rauch deserves the 6th Player of the Year award with how she has been playing. He said her role off the bench is absolutely critical to the Cardinals' success.
With Rauch making an impact, it was a goal of junior Ally Becki to get the ball in Rauch’s hands.
“She dominated that game,” Becki said. “When someone is hot like that you have got to figure it out and put the ball on the rim.”
Becki said the Cardinals can have anyone step up and make big-time plays. She said the bench has been able to provide when a starter might not be having the best night.
Becki said Rauch is able to read what she wants offensively, whether it be screens, cuts and more.
“In the middle of the game, I missed her on a post up, I was like “by bad, my bad,” and she is like “I trust you, I trust you,”” Becki said. “With that communication back-and-forth, it is key.”
Becki finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Although it was not her best this season, Sallee said a lot of players would die for a stat line like that, and that no matter what Becki did, she did it to win.
Sallee said the Golden Flashes came out determined to get every missed shot. Kent State brought in 17 offensive rebounds.
Ball State was getting looks to start quarters, Sallee said, but was unable to convert. He said the team was missing shots they were not used to missing, but turned it around on the defensive side to stay in the game even if they were not scoring to start quarters.
Going into halftime, both Sallee and the Kent State head coach, Todd Starkey, had some words for the refs as the buzzer rang.
“Those 14 girls in there are going to get my absolute best, and if that means I have to fight for them, I am in,” Sallee said. “They are going to get everything and anything I got, all the time. If that ruffles feathers, I don’t care because those 14 are what matter to me 100 percent of the time.”
Rauch said the trust level Sallee has for his players gives the team more confidence to work and win.
Ball State will be at Worthen on Feb. 3 to take on Ohio, starting at 1 p.m. It will be alumni night.