3 takeaways from Ball State women’s basketball season-ending loss against Belmont in the WBIT

<p>Junior Ally Becki pushes through defenders to the basket against Belmont March 21 at Worthen Arena. Becki played 20 minutes of the game. Mya Cataline, DN</p>

Junior Ally Becki pushes through defenders to the basket against Belmont March 21 at Worthen Arena. Becki played 20 minutes of the game. Mya Cataline, DN

The Ball State Cardinals (28-6) season came to a close in Worthen Arena Thursday evening. The Cardinals suffered a 77-59 loss to the Belmont Bruins (26-8) in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT). 

Here are three takeaways from the season finale.

Sweet Emotion

It hasn’t even been a full week since Ball State’s hopes of making the NCAA tournament ended in the semifinal of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament. The Cardinals still decided to compete in postseason play despite missing out on their main goal.

Trying to muster up the emotion to play in games that have the potential to extend your season can be tough. For Ball State, it took a few minutes for their emotions to kick in. 

Through the first 14 minutes, Belmont was controlling the pace of play. The Bruins held a 27-18 lead with their three 3-pointers making up the difference. 

Junior Nyla Hampton hit back-to-back threes from the right side of the floor to cut the deficit to three. On the ensuing possession, junior Ally Becki picked up her third foul trying to trap Belmont junior Kilyn McGuff near half-court. 

After the whistle was blown, Becki, who ended up with the ball in her hands after the whistle, slammed it on the ground. The ball popped up into the air and the referees called a technical foul on Becki, her fourth foul of the contest. Because of foul trouble, she sat on the bench until the fourth quarter.

The Bruins responded by getting the lead back up to seven points late in the second quarter before some emotion of their own allowed Ball State to close the gap. 

Junior Carmyn Harrison was called for a technical foul after junior Madelyn Bischoff hit an and-one layup. Bischoff went two-for-three on free throws to cut the deficit to three at halftime. 

Another lackluster quarter 

In the March 15 loss to Kent State, Ball State opened the game with a five-point quarter. It set them back for the rest of the contest and they were never able to recover. 

Thursday, the third quarter was lackluster. The final tally had Ball State’s offense at nine points for the period, 3-for-15 (20 percent) from the field and 1-for-7 (14 percent) from 3-point range.

With Becki on the bench for all of the third quarter, the Cardinals couldn’t generate any sort of offensive flow. The 3-point struggles that have plagued Ball State continued Thursday afternoon which didn’t help either.

The Cardinals haven’t shot north of 33 percent from 3-point range since Feb. 11. Ball State went 4-for-19 (21 percent) from three Thursday. Meanwhile, the Bruins shot 46 percent from 3-point distance, making 11 of their 24 attempts.

In the third period, Belmont shot 64 percent from the field and made four 3-pointers for a 24-point quarter. McGuff had 11 points in the quarter for the Bruins, including a 3-pointer with under two seconds left to extend the Belmont lead to 18 points.

For the game, Belmont had three players in double-digit scoring. Those three players went a combined 10-for-13 (77 percent) from 3-point land. The third quarter was a microcosm of the game with the Bruins outclassing the Cardinals in 3-point shooting. 

For one final time

It has been a privilege for me to be able to provide basketball analysis about Ball State’s historic season. I was fortunate enough to be at almost every home game. I asked questions to players and head coach Brady Sallee in postgame press conferences. 

When my partner and primary beat reporter, Elijah Poe, wasn’t able to cover a game, he trusted me with telling the stories from certain games. My favorite was about their connectedness with the community after their game against Akron Feb. 28. 

Being a basketball junkie my entire life, I will remember the 2023-24 Ball State Cardinals for a couple of reasons. I’ll remember not being able to watch them play in the Sun Coast Challenge because paying for a one-time stream was too much. Instead, I listened to Becki’s game-winning shot against Georgia on the radio.

I’ll remember the trips Poe and I took to Toledo and Cleveland so that we could cover the games in person. Most of all, I’ll remember and appreciate the display of basketball the team put on night after night. 

Ball State got to 28 wins by having different people step up each game. Junior Nyla Hampton was the leading scorer in Thursday’s game. Sometimes it was Becki. Junior Alex Richard had seven straight double-digit scoring games towards the end of the season. 

Despite a less-than-stellar performance against Belmont, the Cardinals had a season that will be talked about in Muncie for a long time. Being close to a historical season was priceless. 

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


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