Ball State (7-19, 2-12 MAC) fell to Toledo (16-9, 8-6 MAC) Saturday despite leading for a majority of the game. The Rockets topped the Cardinals 63-62 in a game that went down to the very last second. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s duel in Worthen Arena.
Presence in the paint
Ball State’s night was mostly centered around getting in the paint and putting the ball off the glass. The first 12 points of the game for the Cardinals came in the lane. Of their 19 total points in the first quarter, 14 of them came from in the paint. This trend did not stop as 22 of their 30 total points in the first half came from down low. The Cardinals ended the game with 34 points in the paint.
“We are a team that has to play from the inside, out,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “Any time you can establish your presence in the paint, it is going to be good.”
Hot start, fast tempo
One of the strongest parts of the game for the Cardinals came from the first half. Ball State shot 41.9 percent from the field, leading to a 30-28 lead after 20 minutes of play. The Cardinals also outrebounded the Rockets, 20-18. Senior guard Jasmin Samz’s quick tempo kept Ball State with the lead for all but 2:39 of the first half. However, the upbeat play was not only present on the offensive end. Sophomore forward Oshlynn Brown kept the pace up on the defensive side.
“[Brown’s] tempo today was through-the-roof good,” Sallee said. “Usually you hear that term about your offense. Her quick feet were deflecting a lot of balls and making it tough in the first half.”
Brown played for 38 of the 40 total minutes Saturday. She dropped 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. This led her to shoot for 52.6 percent from the field. She also added three steals and a block. Although Brown’s presence on offense was clear, her defensive effort against Toledo’s leading scorer and rebounder, Kaayla McIntyre, kept the Cardinals in the game.
The biggest challenge for the Cardinals against the Rockets was to contain McIntyre in and out of the paint. Standing at 6-foot-2, McIntyre is a force to be reckoned with down low. Toledo’s senior averages 16 points and eight rebounds per game. In the first half, the Cardinals were able to hold her to two points and one rebound. However, McIntyre broke open in the second half to finish the night with 16 points and five rebounds.
“We got [McIntyre] in foul trouble, which was big,” Sallee said. “We knew they were going to try to throw her the ball. I thought we did a good job doubling and keep it out.”
Less than a second too late
After a tip-in from Toledo with four seconds left in the game, Ball State found itself down by one point. After taking a timeout, the Cardinals inbounded the ball to Brown. Instead of taking a highly-contested shot inside, Brown dished the ball to wide-open senior Nakeya Penny who drained a three that would have put the game away. However, Penny let the shot go less than a second after the buzzer sounded to force the end of the contest. What would have ended a seven-game losing streak was called off to hand the Cardinals their eighth straight loss.
Contact Drew Pierce with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dpierce3cc.