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The monster that has been created:” Ball State women’s basketball falls to Belmont in the first round of the WBIT

By The Daily News | Published on in The Daily News
Junior Alex Richard shoots the ball for two against Belmont March 21 at Worthen Arena. Richard had five points in the game. Andrew Berger, DN

On March 21, 2024, in Worthen Arena, the first-ever Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT) game was played at 4 p.m.

In the inaugural game, Belmont (26-8) beat Ball State (28-6) 77-59.

Even in the loss, head coach Brady Sallee was thankful for the crowd that came to support the Cardinals. Regardless of the team feeling like “crud,” Sallee said it is easy to find gratitude in the community who supported Ball State all season long.

“In a way, you can look at this season and you can see the monster that has been created,” Sallee said. “This is what I love about it, we are 28-6 and we’re disappointed. There are fans who are disappointed. It sounds crazy because we are 28-6, but it is the monster. It is the beauty of sport.

“It has been built and it has continued to build. In a weird way, I want every fan who came today to feel disappointed and heartbroken. I am OK if they are even mad or think I am an idiot. That all comes with a fan base that is invested in a group of players that have played in a way to make them do that. I am so appreciative of the monster. It has been a lot of hard work to do.”

Being there for the growth of “the monster,” senior Annie Rauch has seen the community and fan base grow.

“To see what has grown into, you cannot beat it,” Rauch said. “To play somewhere where the people are supporting you, it really makes a difference. It makes us tight as a community. It makes us happy to see the little kids that come up to us and want to talk to us. It is really different and I am happy to be a part of this.”

In her last year as a Cardinal, Rauch said most of all she was grateful. Grateful for her final season in white and red.

“I am proud of what I put into it. I am proud of where we are at,” Rauch said. “[I am] just really thankful.”


Junior Annie Rauch attempts a shot for two against Belmont March 21 at Worthen Arena. Rauch had seven points for the Cardinals. Andrew Berger, DN

Sallee was forced to play different lineups the Cardinals had not seen all year long due to junior Ally Becki and sophomore Hana Mühl being in foul trouble. All the circumstances led to a “whacky game,” he said.

“You can’t do anything about circumstances or anything like that,” Sallee said. “You just have to be ready to adjust and rock and roll when the number is called.”

Junior Nyla Hampton’s number was called all day. Her 14 points led the Cardinals. With the loss, Hampton wrapped up her first season at Ball State. She said the year was enjoyable on the whole being able to play with the group of girls on the court.

“You are never going to forget the relationships and the bonds,” Hampton said.

Even with her minutes on the court, Rauch said she will remember the times off the court with her teammates. She said the funny, crazy and great people made it a great season for her.

At the end of the season, Sallee said it was clear the 23-24 team was special. 28 wins, votes in the USA Today Poll and more. Now in the inaugural WBIT, Sallee said the timing for a new tournament by the NCAA is important for the game of women’s basketball.

Sallee said he could see the professionalism behind the tournament. The graphics, on the court logos and trying to make it as neutral as possible for both teams.

“It [WBIT] is a destination, and a real one,” Sallee said. “These events are important to a Ball State. They are important to a Belmont. This is a really really good thing for our sport, and I am appreciative that we got to a point where the value was there, seen and acted on.”

Contact Elijah Poe via email at elijah.poe@bsu.edu or on X @ElijahPoe4.