Sophomore guard Destiny Washington raced back to defend Ball State's basket in the first quarter of the women's basketball game against Bowling Green State.
With the Cardinals trailing 12-11, Washington planted her feet just inside the 3-point line and spotted open Falcons center Abby Siefker right as the ball started heading her way.
Siefker hauled in the pass and fired off a quick shot, but Washington leaped to knock the ball out of the air. Washington sprinted toward the offensive end as junior forward Moriah Monaco tossed a long outlet pass, hitting Washington in stride.
Without skipping a beat, Washington hit the fast break layup to give Ball State a 13-12 lead it wouldn't surrender in its 91-70 victory.
"[Washington] is really coming into her own right now and is becoming a special player," head coach Brady Sallee said.
Ball State stats
Shooting: 35-69 (50.7 percent)
Rebounds: 45 (18 off., 27 def.)
Points in paint: 52
Carmen Grande, 20 points
Renee Bennett, 20 points
Bowling Green State stats
Shooting: 24-53 (45.3 percent)
Rebounds: 25 (7 off., 18 def.)
Points in paint: 26
Caterrion Thompson, 16 points
The Cardinals (17-7, 10-2 MAC) dominated in the post, outscoring the Falcons (6-17, 2-9 MAC) 52-26 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 45-25.
Sophomore point guard Carmen Grande entered the day fifth in the nation with 7.6 assists per game, but called her own number and tied for the team lead with a career-high 20 points, all scored in the first half.
"I was trying to be aggressive, and when I'm aggressive people get open," Grande said. "If they run the floor, I have my shooters open, ... so if I'm playing hard and if I'm playing with tempo, the team is going with me. This time instead of the passes, I had the layups and I made them."
Grande was credited with just four assists, second to senior Calyn Hosea's six, but it wasn't because she was hogging the ball. Instead, it was just a function of an offense that wouldn't settle for tough shots, as several could-have-been assists turned into extra passes or dribbles.
"As good as [Grande] was putting the ball in the bucket and all that, I thought — between her ears — she played a real smart game too," Sallee said.
Senior center Renee Bennett had a stellar first half as well, locking up her seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds at the end of the second quarter. She finished the game with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
"What you're watching right now with her — whew — I mean it's unbelievable," Sallee said. "I'm sitting there at one point in that game thinking, 'Man, if I had to guard her, if she was on the other team, I don't know what I would do.' You've got to double it. Geez Louise, she's playing at a high level."
Washington, the reigning Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week, scored 10 points to mark her fourth consecutive game scoring double-digit points off the bench. But along with setting up her own go-ahead score, she also capped a 12-0 first-quarter run by setting up her own fast break with a steal on the perimeter.
"I've been trying to really focus on defense because I know it's not always there when it needs to be, and I know in some games that it's not where it's supposed to be. So these last couple weeks I've been really focusing on being where I'm supposed to be, making it hard for the other team to get the ball and doing what I'm supposed to do."
Junior guard Frannie Frazier is usually the second player off the bench, averaging 16.7 minutes per game, but wasn't present against Bowling Green because of "the flu bug," Sallee said.
"She tried to get the fluids in her, but if you'd've seen her this afternoon it was a no-brainer," Sallee said. "Go back home, kiddo."
With Frazier unavailable, Sallee expanded the rotation. Sophomore Nakeya Penny and freshmen Aliyah Walker and Morgan Glatczack each topped 10 minutes court time, and 12 different players saw the court.
All of them scored at least two points.
"I had to make a decision — are we just going to play six, or are we just going to go ahead and get into the bench?" Sallee said. "I said let's just go ahead and get those kids out there, it'll be good for them. ... It's good to have games like this and get these players experience, because you're never going to know when you're going to need them."
Ball State's next game is at 2 p.m. Feb. 11 in Worthen Arena against Ohio (17-5, 8-3 MAC).