Feb. 21, a reported 5,573 people sat in Worthen Arena to watch basketball.
Feb. 22, a reported 1,157 people sat in Worthen Arena to watch basketball.
What changed from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22 one might ask? Gender. With the last home game for the Ball State Women’s Basketball team taking place on Saturday, the Cardinals hope for a change.
“We need the students. We need the community.”
The Ball State Women’s basketball head coach Brady Sallee has just one request for the last home game of the year on Saturday against Toledo at 1 p.m.. More fans in the seats.
For Toledo, Sallee wants 3,000 fans to make Worthen Arena the toughest it has been all year, and he trusts the community and students will do it for them.
“Saturday's a big night, senior night,” Sallee said. “We have two kids going through it that deserve this whole town coming out.”
Sallee said when the ball goes up on Saturday that the Cardinals won’t like Toledo, and Toledo won’t like Ball State. That being said there is respect for teams between each other. Sallee is expecting top-of-the-league, good basketball.
The next three games for Ball State to end out the season are of course Toledo, at Bowling Green and at Miami (OH). Toledo and Bowling Green are tied with the Cardinals in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) with a record of 13-2. From here on out, Ball State controls its destiny to where they will be seeded for the MAC Tournament.
“If you don't want what's coming the next three games, you’re in the wrong place Jack,” Sallee said. “This is what you come here to do. There are nine teams in our league that wish they could be us or Bowling Green or Toledo right now. I told them a couple of weeks ago, don't forget to enjoy this too. I mean, like, this is awesome.”
Not looking toward Saturday, Ball State (23-5, 13-2 MAC) beat Western Michigan (10-16, 5-10 MAC) 80-49. The Cardinals held the Broncos to the least amount of points scored against a MAC team and Ball State also tied for the largest margin of victory against a MAC opponent.
After coming off of a 77-84 loss against Northern Illinois, Sallee said he was thrilled with how the team responded after a tough loss.
“The one word I wrote up on the board before we went out to play the game was ‘response’ and we wanted to after a heartbreaker up at Northern,” Sallee said. “We wanted to come out be different and not necessarily like scoring the ball or anything specific that way but we wanted a different look. We wanted a different body language, we wanted a different edge, an effort level, and all the things that matter. I thought we did it from start to finish.”
Some of the reasons for the win according to Sallee was the defensive ability.
Sallee said that the team has gotten better in defense as the season has gone on. He said the things they are capable of have grown since November and December. He described that he mixed two game plans for the defense against the Broncos.
“I just kind of was like okay, we're gonna do this boom, boom, boom, and they looked at me like I was crazy,” Sallee said. Then they just went and did it, and that's what we're capable of doing. We can guard something one way and we can guard it 180 degrees differently in the blink of an eye, and they are on it, and that's what we maybe weren't capable of doing in early January that we can do now.”
Redshirt Senior Anna Clephane led the Cardinals with 14 points on 5-for-10 (50 percent) shooting from the field, she was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
Senior Annie Rauch was able to make an impact on the game immediately, coming in off of the bench after sophomore Marie Kiefer got into some foul trouble. She finished the game with 11 points and was 4-for-8 (50 percent) from the field in only 14 minutes of playing time.
“I think it's really emphasized on our whole team just to be ready when your number's called,” Rauch said. “I'm always ready to go because you never know what situation is going to need you. We practice all the same so I’m always ready to go.”
Another key player to impact the game was sophomore Ally Becki. After two games where she was scoreless, in the past two games she had 14 against NIU, and today, she had 13 against Western Michigan.
“I don't think anything really changed,” Becki said. “I wasn't too worried about scoring and I feel like if I was worried about [scoring] I wouldn't be the player I am today. I mean don't get me wrong, it's a confidence booster to see your shot go in, but I'm trying to facilitate for the team more than anything else.”
Sallee said even when up big later in a game, his coaching mentality never changes. He said one amazing thing about this group he has this year is that they are all really coachable.
“They're here to get coached,” Sallee said. “They're not here for me to pat them on the back and coach them like we're up 30, they're here to get coached and to be held accountable. I got a job to do and I don't really concern myself a whole lot with the score. I think, and I hope, that's what they would expect from me too.”
Ball State will be back in Worthen on Feb. 25 to take on Toledo (22-4, 13-2 MAC) at 1 p.m. for senior night.