Coming off of a week of travel and a loss to UConn, head coach Brady Sallee said he just wanted to come out with a win against Western Kentucky. He said this is always the goal, but he expected tough sledding today.
“My kids showed some real resolve and toughness,” Sallee said. “They made sure we got out of here with a big W.”
Coming out with a 67-59 win, there was some tough sledding that came with the loss of junior Madelyn Bischoff, who was sidelined against the Hilltoppers. Sallee said Bischoff has been day-to-day, but did not want to risk anything playing her today and is more focused on the big picture.
With Bischoff out, Sallee said the Cardinals had a next-man-up mentality to fill the offensive role.
“You can use all the coach speak you want, but at the end of the day when the kid that gets 15 (points) a night isn’t there, it is a little bit different,” Sallee said. “I knew people would step into those points, but at this point of the year, there are some roles and rotations that can get upside down in these situations. You have to have mental toughness as a team to look different and fight through it.”
Someone who played differently was junior Marie Kiefer who opened up the game by going 3-for-3 from the 3-point line, much like Bischoff has done multiple times this season.
“I’ve been working on my 3-point shot since last year and taking more attempts,” Kiefer said. “It is a big boost when you are making shots. I am not one to typically go out there and shoot every three that I get open since it is not my role, but it definitely helps when they fall.”
With Ball State holding Western Kentucky under 60 points, Sallee said the “head of the snake,” Nyla Hampton made the biggest impact defensively. He said her ability to add pressure sets the tone for the whole team.
Sallee gave credit to the Cardinals for stepping up and playing at the same level defensively as Hampton. He said her effort is always going to be through the roof and has the ability to blow up a whole possession for the opponent.
Hampton also had nine assists, a game-high. Sallee said some of the passes she made were next level to break pressure or get a teammate a basket.
“I think she only came out one time and played a ton of minutes,” Sallee said. “She did not really ever back down that whole game. Her toughness and what we can count on defensively is next level.”
Improving to 7-2, with only two losses coming to AP top 25 ranked teams, Ball State will travel down to Tampa for the Sun Coast Challenge. They will play the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Georgia.
Although Ball State will play two Power 5 schools next, Sallee said the team is focused on their next opponent — final exams. After getting into the books, Sallee said they are going to spend some time working offensively to prepare for the Sun Coast Challenge.
“It’ll be mainly about getting them in the gym, breaking a sweat and keeping their conditioning, and then get them in the books,” Sallee said. “Once we get through that, we will be ready to go to Tampa.”
Kiefer said the Cardinals look at every game as a challenge, no matter the opponents they will face in Tampa.
“The games that we have played leading up to this (Tampa), like Notre Dame and UConn will prepare us mentally to know what kind of offense and defense we are going up against,” Kiefer said. “We just have to go out there and play like we know how to play and we will be fine.”