One team competed with more fight and will Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals were not that team.
Ball State (11-9, 9-7 MAC) fell 83-76 to Buffalo (12-7, 9-5 MAC) in a rematch from Wednesday night. The Cardinals were unable to replicate their defensive performance against a Bulls team hungry for revenge.
“I give Buffalo a ton of credit," head coach Brady Sallee said. "They came out and turned the game into a really physical game. They played through that a little better than we did, especially in the third quarter.”
Buffalo's offense relied heavily on sophomore guard Dyaisha Fair. Never coming out of the game, she delivered 36 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“[The Bulls] were playing with their backs in the corner,” Sallee said. “We had to be ready for that part of it, and I don’t think we handled that real well. I think we were hoping for some whistles that never came, and you have to be able to play through that inconsistency as well.”
Despite outrebounding Buffalo 40-38, Ball State could not come down with rebounds at the most crucial times. Late in the fourth quarter, Fair recorded three offensive rebounds in one possession.
“Even though we outrebounded them," Sallee said, "I think in crunch time — in the second half – they outrebounded us. For Fair to get three offensive rebounds being the smallest player on the floor, that put us in a tough spot.”
While Ball State's defensive effort was present, Sallee said, the Cardinals must mentally commit to rebounding moving forward.
“At this time of year, you have to stay focused for 40 minutes,” Sallee said. “Every possession is monumental. The minute you lose focus, the ball goes up and you're staring at the rim...It’s a complete mental thing.”
Senior forward Oshlynn Brown led the Cardinals' offense, finishing with 25 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. The performance was enough to earn her sixth double-double in the last seven games.
Redshirt sophomore guard Anna Clephane scored 20 points while junior forward Thelma Dis Agustsdottir chipped in 15 points. Sallee was pleased with the offensive output but thought the team did not stand strong enough when met with resistance.
“I thought they did a better job of not letting Osh do as much by crowding her,” Sallee said. “For the most part, I thought we were pretty efficient, we took care of the ball, shot a good percentage. Probably the biggest thing was when we were forced to play through the physicality, I thought overall, they won that.”
Ball State will return to action Wednesday, Feb. 24, on the road against Northern Illinois. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @cbowles01.