After going 34 days since its last road victory, Ball State was hungry for a win away from Muncie. It took an all-around team effort to take down Toledo, and that is exactly what the Cardinals did. Contributions from everyone who stepped foot on the court helped lift them over the Rockets. Here are four takeaways from Ball State's two-point win in Toledo, Ohio.
From the get-go, the sense that a hard, defensive-minded game was on the horizon. The game would progress and prove just that. The largest lead for any team was seven points by Ball State. Toledo gained a two-point lead several times throughout the contest. No team was able to get on a scoring run of any kind.
The numbers on the final stat sheet were as close as you could get them. The Rockets won the overall rebounding battle, but each team was able to pull down 31 on the defensive side. It wasn’t the cleanest night for either team, as Ball State finished with 21 turnovers, and Toledo committed 22 turnovers on the night.
The cardinal and white had the edge in a couple of categories. As an offense, they were able to get 28 points in the paint. The 3-pointer was not falling for Ball State early, so it turned to drive the lane to fuel the offense. The Cardinals continued to show why they are the No. 1 defense in the conference by holding their opponent to less than 60 points for the ninth time this season.
Foul trouble struggle
Against the Rockets, the paint game was an important aspect of the mid-week conference tilt. Both teams recorded more than 20 points inside the lane. While a majority of the points came from there, defense down low served difficult for the Cardinals, as they saw two players foul out. Junior forward Oshlynn Brown and freshman forward Annie Rauch both made early exits from the court, as Ball State committed a total of 22 fouls against Toledo.
After not playing in the first quarter due to a jersey issue, Brown still managed to deliver 10 points in 18 minutes played. Her scoring and rebounding helped Ball State build as big as a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The two main post players for the Cardinals picked up fouls quickly. Sophomore forward Blake Smith collected two fouls early in the second quarter, which forced Rauch into the game. The freshman guard played a fairly clean second quarter, but she picked up fouls two and three before the half.
Smith started the third quarter and shared time with Rauch in the usual rotation. Rauch eventually picked up foul No. 5 with 2:32 remaining, forcing Smith to play the remainder carrying four fouls.
Graduate student guard Jasmin Samz was the steady line Ball State needed for the entire night. Samz's relentless hustle play was a big point for the Cardinals. Samz also delivered a steady offense when the team needed it most. Samz was one of only two players to score in double figures for the Cardinals, finishing her night with 14.
Ball State went on a scoring drought of more than five minutes in the second quarter. It was Samz who ended the drought with 3:48 remaining. That bucket also tied the game back up at 19 apiece. The fourth quarter was where Samz shined the most. Posting six points in the final frame, she helped the offense late in the game.
Samz finished her night going 6-for-11 from the field and complementing that with five rebounds and three assists.
Creating takeaways helped the Cardinals
Defense is something Ball State has prided itself on all season. Its theory has been to play its best defense and reap the benefits on the offensive side. Holding their opponents to an average of 63.2 points per contest this season has been a staple of the Cardinals' team.
Against the Rockets, the Cardinals surpassed their season average of seven steals per game and were able to rack up 11. Smith led the team in blocks, swatting away two shots on the night. One of those blocks by Smith came in the final seconds on a last-second effort by Toledo. That block allowed the Cardinals to escape with the two-point victory.
Ball State took advantage in the turnover department. Not only did it commit fewer turnovers than Toledo, but it also managed to collect 19 points off the Rockets’ miscues. Creating these takeaways was one of the areas the Cardinals were able to get a slight edge over Toledo.
Contact Grant Covey with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @grant_covey.