3 takeaways from Ball State women’s basketball’s win over Kent State

Senior Estel Puiggros dribbles the ball down court against Toledo Feb. 24 at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio. Puiggros played for 15 minutes of the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Senior Estel Puiggros dribbles the ball down court against Toledo Feb. 24 at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio. Puiggros played for 15 minutes of the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Every college basketball team’s goal is to be playing important games once the calendar turns to March. For the Ball State Cardinals and Kent State Golden Flashes, Wednesday night’s contest was important for Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament seeding. 

With the regular season conference champion still to be determined, Ball State (26-4, 15-2 MAC) locked up at least the number two seed in the conference tournament with a 75-71 road win against Kent State (18-9, 13-4 MAC). 

Here are three takeaways from the win.   

High-level hoops on ESPNU

In the Jan. 31 matchup between the Golden Flashes and the Cardinals, there was minimal offensive production. The game was a defensive battle with both teams shooting under 33 percent from the field. 

Wednesday’s nationally televised game had a mixture of stellar offensive play and lockdown defense. There were just seven combined turnovers by both teams in the first 20 minutes and Specifically, sequences at the end of the first half showed why both teams are in the top 3 spots in the MAC.

With just over five minutes to go in the first half and the game tied at 22, sophomore Hana Mühl held the ball at the top of the key. After deciding not to pass the ball to the opposite wing, she rose up and sunk her second 3-pointer of the game. 

On the ensuing Kent State possession, they dribbled into a corner, leading to a steal by junior Nyla Hampton and a fast break opportunity. Hampton pushed it ahead to Mühl who shoveled a pass to senior Annie Rauch for an and-one layup. 

After falling down six, the Golden Flashes responded with a 7-0 run in the span of one minute and 15 seconds. Sophomore Dionna Gray had back-to-back assists to freshman Janae Tyler, giving Kent State the lead. 

Junior Marie Kiefer was the lift Ball State needed to end the half strong. 23 seconds after Kent State took the lead, she converted an and-one layup. Later on, she stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for an easy layup, giving the Cardinals a 35-31 lead at the half.

Defense sets the tone

Kent State has fifth-year Katie Shumate who has a chance to be a first-team all-MAC player at season’s end. Coming into the contest, Shumate was averaging 15.2 points per game. Through 28 minutes of play, she had just six points and was 3-for-13 from the field.

Ball State didn’t hit their usual average of forcing opponents into 20 turnovers per game. In fact, they didn’t even reach half of that number, only forcing Kent State into coughing the ball up 9 times. 

When the Cardinals did take possessions away, they made the most of them. They had 16 points off of turnovers, doubling up the Golden Flashes in that department. Ball State had seven steals compared to Kent State’s three. 

With 2:34 left in the third, Ball State held its largest lead of the game at 14 points. The Golden Flashes began chipping away at the deficit when Shumate started to heat up. She hit a 3-pointer late in the third and scored seven points in the fourth quarter.

Ball State let up 15 offensive rebounds, also contributing to Kent State cutting the lead down to three points late in the game. Rebounding has been a struggle at times this year for Ball State, and it’s an area that can still see improvement as the MAC tournament approaches.

Ball State’s backcourt comes through late

Junior Ally Becki spent most of the first half on the bench due to picking up two fouls. She was held scoreless through 20 minutes as well. 

After the Cardinals ended the first half on a positive note, Becki created even more separation in the second half. Junior Alex Richard started the scoring with a fadeaway jumper, and immediately Becki hit back-to-back threes to force a Kent State timeout. Becki hit another 3-pointer seconds before the third quarter buzzer to give Ball State a nine point lead. 

Kent State had cut it to five points early in the fourth when Becki received an inside-out pass from Hampton and knocked down her fourth 3-pointer of the game. 

With just over three minutes left and Ball State up four, Becki had a pass stolen. On the fastbreak she took a charge, giving her team the ball back. On the next offensive possession, Richard grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback score. 

Becki didn’t do it alone. Hampton went 7-for-11 (64 percent) from the field and had 16 points. She added six assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block. 

In the final minutes, the Cardinals got timely stops, chewed the clock and went 7-for-9 (78 percent) from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, eventually putting the game on ice. 

Ball State finishes the regular season Saturday afternoon against the Buffalo Bulls with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m.

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


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