By Cory Stace | @corystace
Voice of Ball State Women’s Basketball on WCRD
Member of Ball State Sports Link
The Cardinals improved to their best non-conference start in nine years after two wins at home against Ohio Valley and Butler this past week.
Ball State started off last week playing Division II opponent Ohio Valley. Brady Sallee described the game as Ohio Valley’s “Super Bowl” because of the Division I atmosphere in Worthen Arena.
Ohio Valley’s “Super Bowl” ended quickly as the Cardinals jumped out to a 53-21 halftime lead, from which they never looked back. Ball State defeated Ohio Valley 94-45 with big contributions off the bench including 16 points and 9 rebounds from Lucia Fernandez.
Fernandez’s career high in both points and rebounds was bitter sweet as she broke her hand during the Ohio Valley contest. Fernandez is likely to miss four weeks with the injury, which will result in a knock on the Cardinals bench production during that span.
Despite the injury, the Cardinals had no time to dwell on the Thursday Night game vs. Ohio Valley as they turned their attention to in-state rival Butler.
With the Butler Bulldogs coming into Worthen Arena on Sunday, the Cardinals not only wanted to snap their 9-year losing streak against the Bulldogs, but the game also held tremendous recruiting leverage within the state of Indiana.
The Cardinals trailed early in large part to Butler’s Blaire Langlois, who hit her first three 3-point shot attempts to give the Bulldogs a 12-16 advantage through one quarter of play.
Butler maintained their four point advantage heading into halftime as both teams were only able to muster 9 points in the 2nd quarter to make the score 21-25 going into halftime.
The 3rd quarter of the contest could be renamed, “The Quarter of Runs” as Ball State ran out of the gates in the 2nd half with an 11-0 run to give them a 32-25 advantage.
The Cardinals made the run only to have Butler respond with a 12-0 run of their own to make the score 37-32 going into the 4th quarter.
The Cardinals full court press along with the up-tempo style of play was able to wear down the Butler 7-woman rotation in the 4th quarter as the Cardinals were able to charge forward.
Moriah Monaco and Carmen Grande both struggled from the field all night for the Cardinals until both seized their moments to shine by hitting late game 3-point shots to pull Ball State ahead further.
After going 0-8 from the field up to that point, Grande stepped up with 1:26 left in the 4th quarter by nailing a straight away 3-point field goal followed by a powerful fist pump to the Ball State Student Section to give the Cardinals a 54-47 lead.
The Cardinals finished off the Bulldogs with two made free throws by both Grande and Fontaine to give Ball State their first win over Butler in nine years by a score of 58-50.
Ironically enough, the last time the Ball State Cardinals beat the Butler Bulldogs was in that same season in which they started off with a dominant non-conference record of 16-2 some nine years ago.
In that 2006-2007 season, the Cardinals found themselves with a 24-7 record and just three points shy of advancing to the 3rd round of the WNIT with a 82-85 loss vs. Kentucky.
Despite that extremely successful season nine years ago, I believe Brady Sallee and his troops have something bigger on their mind than just a 3rd straight WNIT appearance after their early success.
When Coach Sallee was asked about the chances of a Mid-American Conference Championship he said,
“That’s something we aren’t afraid to talk about. It’s something I think we are good enough to do. We have to stay healthy, and we have to continue to get better.”
With the 5-2 overall record, Ball State now turns its attention to a week of games that doesn’t get any easier, starting with Lipscomb tonight as well as another in-state rival on Sunday when they travel to West Lafayette to take on Big Ten opponent Purdue.
Some Storylines to look for in this week’s games:
- With two solid performances this past week vs. Ohio Valley and Butler, Nathalie Fontaine boosted herself to 4th in the all-time scoring list in Ball State history with 1,645 points. She needs 64 points to pass 3rd place Emily Maggert who has 1,708 points.
- Nathalie Fontaine is averaging 19.9 points/game through the first seven games of the season. If the Cardinals play 31 games this season, which would include 1 MAC tournament game and 1 post MAC tournament game, on her current pace, Fontaine would become the all-time leading scorer in Ball State history with 2,121 career points through 4 years, passing the current all-time leading scorer Tamara Bowie (2,091 points).
- Through the first seven contests for the Cardinals, they have outscored their opponents by 14 points or more in the paint. Brady Sallee has stressed that area in Ball State’s game. That streak will be put to the test against Purdue on Sunday with 6’6 Center, Nora Kiesler and 6’5 Center, Bree Horrocks battling Nathalie Fontaine and Rennee Bennett down low.
- Frannie Frazier earned a Division I Top 25 team talent grade out of Thomas Worthington High School in Columbus, Ohio, but she only averaged 2.9 pts/g, 1.9 rebs/g, 0.9 asts/g, and 0.8 stls/g. In the past three games, which have featured UMass, Ohio Valley, and Butler, she provided the Cardinals immense help in bench production by averaging 6 pts/g, 5 rebs/g, 2 asts/g, and 2 stls/g.
- Ball State is looking for revenge on Sunday after last year’s 66-60 loss to Purdue in Worthen Arena. Nathalie Fontaine led the Cardinals with 21 points and 12 rebounds in last year’s meeting. The Cardinals lose Shelbie Justice’s contributions but add Carmen Grande for this year’s contest in West Lafayette.
Both games this week will be broadcast on the Ball State Radio Network, Fox Sports Muncie (102.9 FM & 1340 AM) or can be found on ESPN3.
Tyler Bradfield will have your Play-by-Play call on the Ball State Radio Network with analyst and former Ball State Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach, Scot Bunnell, for the contest tonight at 6:00pm Eastern Time at Lipscomb University.
Sunday, Bradfield will be joined by former Indiana University Women’s Basketball Head Coach, Curt Miller, for the tip at 2:00pm Eastern Time in West Lafayette at Purdue University.
Ball State’s Student Radio Station, WCRD, will also have the call for Sunday’s contest at Purdue University as Noah Reed will have the Play-by-Play call, along with myself as the analyst. Mick Tidrow will air the pregame show 30 minutes before tip at 1:30pm Eastern Time.