The Cardinals' loss came down to one word: discipline.
Ball State (9-7, 7-5 MAC) fell to Northern Illinois (10-6, 8-3 MAC) 78-74 on Monday afternoon. The two were originally scheduled to play Jan. 20, but that game was postponed due to COVID-19.
“It’s so important, in a tightly, high-contested game, that you do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it, and how you're supposed to do it, and that's how we define discipline,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “When we play disciplined, we're pretty good. When we don't, we put ourselves in a hole, and I thought that was the story of this game, on top of Koker just whipping us.”
Huskies Sophomore guard Chelby Koker finished with a game-high 34 points. She shot 12-for-19 from the field, including 6-for-10 from long range. She was the only Huskie player to score more than 10 points. She also managed to grab six steals, another game-high. Sallee thinks Koker single handedly kept the Huskies' offense afloat during pivotal moments throughout the game.
“It's hard to make her give the ball up,” Sallee said. “We tried to, and she’s just so good in space, very crafty. She made some tough challenge shots, which I’m ok with. When we broke down, that's when she really made us pay, and those are the ones we got to get fixed. There's no question, she gave it to us. Again, she was really their only offense.”
Senior forward Oshlynn Brown led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding with 26 points and 14 rebounds. She shot 12-for-15 from the field, good for 80 percent.
Redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane was the only other Cardinal to finish in double-digit scoring. She scored 15 points, eight of them which came in the third quarter. In her last nine games, Clephane has scored 12 or more points in each contest.
One specific area of the game that the Huskies excelled at was rebounding. Northern Illinois outrebounded Ball State by a margin of 36-26, which included a 12-4 margin in the first quarter. Sallee knew what they were up against, but did not expect such a lopsided result.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” Sallee said. “Honestly. I thought we were up to it, and they whooped us pretty good on the boards. Tip your cap to them, but, we've gotta be better in that category. That’s usually not a good recipe for us when we get smacked on the boards like that.”
Ball State will return to their home floor Wednesday, Feb. 10, against Ohio (10-6, 8-5 MAC). Tipoff is 4 p.m. The Cardinals used an overtime period to win 88-85 in the first matchup on Jan. 13.
Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cbowles01.