March 1, Ball State took on Bowling Green in a regular season game, with the Falcons defeating the Cardinals 81-76 in overtime.
Nine days later, it was another win for No. 2 seed Bowling Green, this time in a Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament semifinal matchup, with a final score of 70-61.
Close first-half contest
Leading up to tip-off, multiple members of the media said this might be the most tightly contested game in the tournament, and by the first half, it had extremely high potential to be.
The first quarter ended in a tie 18-18. So far, so accurate.
Each team had 10 rebounds, each team had three assists and the No. 3 seed Cardinals had four bench points while the Falcons had five bench points.
The only real big difference in the first quarter was Ball State’s ability to score points in the paint, as Ball State had 12 points compared to Bowling Green’s six.
The Cardinals were led by redshirt senior Anna Clephane, who had seven points. The Falcons were led by Elissa Brett, who had five points in the first quarter. Both of them were named to the All-MAC First Team.
The second quarter started out hot for Ball State, jumping to an 11-0 run. The Cardinals held Bowling Green scoreless for the first 4:56 of the second quarter.
After the run ended, the Falcons battled back, closing in and making it a three point game headed into halftime.
Bowling Green’s scoring leaders, sophomore guard/forward Jocelyn Tate, junior guard Nyla Hampton and sophomore guard Amy Velasco, all had six points heading into the final half.
It is also worth mentioning sophomore Ally Becki had seven points and was a perfect 3-3 from the field and 1-1 from three at halftime. Becki finished with 11 points.
Just like the last game, Anna Clephane leads
Coming off a 20-point game in the first round of the MAC tournament, Clephane picked up right where she left off against Bowling Green.
In the first half of action, Clephane had 11 points and was 5-of-10 (50 percent) from the field. She also led the team in assists with two and steals with one in the first half of action.
Her hustle was on display as well, she was seen taking charges, diving for loose balls and going up to get rebounds.
At the end of the game, she finished her last career conference game in a Ball State uniform with 20 points and played all 40 minutes.
Graduate student Thelma Dis Agustsdottir, also playing in her last-ever conference game, played the entire 40 minutes as well.
Foul trouble and the nail in the coffin, the role of Elissa Brett
With Brett being a member of the All-MAC First Team and the All-Defense Team, it is no doubt she is one of the best players for Bowling Green, and even in the entire MAC.
She had 16 points in the Falcons’ first-round game against Eastern Michigan, leading the team.
Going into the locker room for halftime, Brett had three fouls, dangerous territory for a leading player on the team. A few minutes right after halftime, Brett picked up her fourth foul.
This resulted in her having to be taken out of the game until the fourth and final quarter.
Coming out of the third quarter, Brett hit two 3-pointers, extending the lead for Bowling Green. She had the first six points for the Falcons in the quarter, all of this with four fouls.
Bowling Green head coach Robyn Fralick said those six points made a huge difference for the rest of the game.
After a back cut led to an easy layup, Brett came down and drilled another 3-pointer, putting Bowling Green up 10, giving the Falcons their largest lead of the game.
At the 3:51 mark, Brett fouled out. She finished with 16 points in only 16 minutes of time played.
Tide-changing third quarter
The third quarter saw Ball State fall down by six after the final buzzer. It was an inefficient third quarter for the Cardinals with a lack of offense.
Ball State only scored ten points in the quarter and was outscored by Bowling Green by nine. A large reason Bowling Green was able to dominate the quarter was because of points in the paint. The Falcons outscored the Cardinals 16-2 in the paint that quarter, all but three of their points that quarter.
Bowling Green shot 8-of-16 (50 percent) from the field, while the Cardinals shot 3-of-11 (27 percent) from the field, again widening the gap.
Free throws and 3-pointers
As mentioned going into the MAC Tournament, it seemed a key for Ball State was hitting free throws.
Against Bowling Green nine days ago, the Cardinals shot 11-of-25. Today, they shot 7-of-14 (50 percent). Losing by nine, one has to bring up if hitting those shots would have changed the course of the game.
The Cardinals were struggling to hit a 3-pointer all game. By the final buzzer, they were 4-of-22 (18 percent).
While they shot 25-57 from the field (44 percent), which is not necessarily bad, the misses from the 3-point line hurt Ball State.
At the end of the postgame press conference, head coach Brady Sallee said the season isn’t necessarily over, looking forward to a potential Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) invitation.