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We want it the most: Ball State women’s basketball defeats Ohio in first round of MAC Tournament

Published on in The Daily News
Ball State women's basketball celebrates junior Alex Richard scoring a three-point basket against Ohio March 13 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. This was Richard's first three-point basket for Ball State. Mya Cataline, DN

In their quest for a Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament Championship, Ball State women’s basketball first started their journey with the Ohio Bobcats. Although being in Cleveland is nothing new for head coach Brady Sallee, the nerves are still prevalent.

“Every year I come up here and I feel the exact same way,” Sallee said. “I thought I would grow out of that. It is the butterflies, it is the nerves, it is the excitement and all of that. That is what tells me that I am where I need to be and doing what I need to be doing. There is nothing better than March basketball.”

In her third year at the MAC tournament, junior Ally Becki said the “nervous wreck” she once felt as a freshman has dwindled with her experience.

Sallee said it is always nice to come to Cleveland and truly know that a chance of cutting down the banner is possible. Ball State (28-4, 16-2 MAC) got one step closer with their win over Ohio (11-19, 8-10 MAC) 77-53.

Under the lights of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, junior Alex Richard said the team has had pressure all year so the added stage is within the norm for the team.

“That is what is so special about our group, is that we want it the most,” Richard said. “We worked so hard for this and we are relentless.”

Heading into the game, Sallee said he was a little uncomfortable with the matchup against the Bobcats. Nevertheless, Sallee said the collective group effort the Cardinals have been playing with all year was why they pushed past Ohio.

Although it was tied 12-12 in the middle for the first quarter, Ball State went on a 22-4 run to pull away from the Bobcats in the first and second quarters.

“[It was] the flow of our motion and getting stops on the defensive end,” Becki said. “It is encouraging and brings more spark to the floor. It makes us keep going.”


Junior Ally Becki puts the ball up for two against Ohio March 13 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Ball State beat Ohio 77-53. Andrew Berger, DN

Sallee said the defensive play this year has been the difference in what Ball State women’s basketball has been this year. As good as the offense has been this year, Sallee said that the ability to defend is a large reason why the Cardinals are confident in the MAC Tournament.

Even though Marie Kiefer was not near the top in scoring with her eight points, she had 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.

“The way she played was everything,” Sallee said. “We had a lot of really good performances but I think without Marie playing the way she does, this game is completely different.

“Marie Kiefer effects a game without scoring 20. Her impact on the game today was as big as anyone.”

Kiefer matched up with Ohio junior Kennedi Watkins. Kiefer held her to 1-for-15 from the field and only three points. Sallee said Kiefer winning that matchup was easily a key factor in winning the game.

Tying her career high with 22 points, Richard was a perfect 9-for-9 with her first 3-pointer of the year. Richard said a large majority of her points came from her guard teammates being able to recognize the mismatch in the post.

Richard’s performance makes it her seventh straight game in double-digits. Richard said that it is her teammates’ belief in her that builds her confidence on the court.

Richard and bench watches.jpg
Junior Alex Richard and Ball State’s bench watches the ball March 13 during a game against Ohio at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Richard ended the game with 22 points. Zach Carter, DN.

As Ball State’s main 3-point shooter, junior Madelyn Bischoff was 3-for-13 from the 3-point line. Sallee said that even though she was not as effective from three, she was still able to find a way to contribute by driving in the lane and continuing to defend heavily. Bischoff ended the night with a +/- of 26.

“She impacted that win today, and that is what you need from everybody this time of year,” Sallee said.

Sallee said the confidence and experience that Ball State plays with is entirely the young ladies who put up the fight to win.

Ball State will face the winner of Kent State and Northern Illinois University March 15 at 12:30 p.m. at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

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