After winning its previous two games with eight eligible players, Ball State Women’s Basketball (13-7, 6-4 MAC) returned three of its four players who were out last week due to health and safety protocols Feb. 2, including junior Syndey Freeman.
“It felt really good to be back on the court,” Freeman said. “I really missed it."
The Cardinals defeated Ohio (11-7, 5-4 MAC) 84-74 to win their fourth consecutive game.
Freeman scored 19 points, her second-highest mark of the season. Freeman said it was difficult to miss time, but was proud of her teammates stepping up in her absence.
“It was hard, I think I’ve only ever missed a few games. I was really proud to see us get two dubs last week.”
Head Coach Brady Sallee said Ball State is more complete with Freeman's presence on the floor.
“Whenever you can have more bullets in your gun that’s a good thing,” Sallee said. “We had kids step up last week without her, but when she is on the court, it’s more of our identity and who we are.”
In each of the last three wins, freshman Ally Becki has set a new career-high for points. Becki scored 27 points against the Bobcats and tallied eight assists and six rebounds. Sallee believes Becki, like the rest of the Cardinals, is discovering her identity with more experience.
“She was the best player on the floor tonight with her all-around game,” Sallee said. “It’s hard to look at her play and see she’s a freshman.”
Sallee said he encouraged Becki to continue her aggressive play with Freeman returning, and said he is confident in his backcourt moving forward.
“Now we’ve got two girls up top playing at a high level and I think when that’s the case, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Sallee said.
Ohio senior guard Cierra Hooks finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Sallee said there was “no doubt” Hooks was a focus defensively, but was impressed with how the Cardinals recovered with their offense.
“Even with her getting favorable whistles, we answered with big shots to stop her mini-runs,” Sallee said. “She’s really good and when she gets that whistle, she’s impossible to guard.”
The Bobcats outrebounded Ball State 39-34, but Sallee said the Cardinals ability to protect the ball and convert from the 3-point line made the difference. The Cardinals shot 15-for-38 from the 3-point line.
“I think that (the three) coupled with how we took care of the ball were key to winning this ball game,” Sallee said. “We’ve been finding shots and knocking them down.”
Freeman said Ball State's chemistry and togetherness helped them navigate with players sidelined, and thinks the victory against Ohio is representative of how much they enjoy playing with each other.
“It shows how close we are as a team,” Freeman said. “We play really well together and it felt good to be back playing together again.”
The Cardinals return to Worthen Arena Feb. 5 against Bowling Green (10-8, 5-4 in MAC). Tipoff is 1 p.m.
Contact Kyle Smedley on Twitter @smedley1932 or via email at email@example.com.