Through one half, UB was playing Ball State even in their own house and keeping the most dangerous Cardinal options mostly in check. The tenor of the second half makes the ultimate 68-63 loss a bit surprising, as Ball State found serious contributions from their secondary scorers in the third and fourth quarters, but UB showed plenty of fight to nearly upset their hosts. Our takeaways:
1. Winning on the road in the MAC is hard
I've already said this once this week. Ball State is an extremely good team and are 8-0 at home. For UB to play within two possessions, and to have a chance to tie on their final shot, and even before that, to fight back after the Cardinals had seized all the momentum, is a solid, solid showing. Like the EMU men, the Ball State women will be a contender to take a championship this year. It's my belief that the Bulls have already faced the three best teams from the West Division.
2. UB held Fontaine in check, but the difference was secondary scoring
This is in some regards the story of UB's season now. When the Bulls find ~25 points from two non-Joanna Smith players, they look great. Even though Steph Reid got up to 12 and scored 30+ points in each half, UB didn't have much until their comeback outside from Smith. They were unable (understandably against Ball State's size) to get the ball down low, and as a result barely earned any foul shots. Meanwhile, the Cardinals thrived on Bennett and Morrison while Fontaine struggled.
3. The final minute is what Karin Moss is made to do
I didn't love the shot selection nor the level of aggressiveness Moss showed in nearly getting that steal, but if the ref hesitates a half second to blow the whistle on the latter, UB is holding with a final shot to win after the senior hit a baseline runner and disrupted Ball State in transition.
4. Praise for UB's final possession
It helped that Reid and Moss had hit some shots in the then-recent minutes, but UB was looking Joanna Smith the whole way, and got it to her after not-too-many passes. Smith did well to get herself open, and had as good a look as you can hope for as the game's leading scorer needing a three. I rarely have much confidence in the offense, but that sequence was excellent.
Ball State is shooting above 50% for the year and still pulling down 41 rebounds a game for a +4 margin over their opponents. Despite size deficiencies down low, UB actually outrebounded the Cardinals and matched them on the offensive glass. That was good.
UB will take on Akron and a pair of bigtime scorers in Anita Brown and Hannah Plybon Saturday afternoon.