Chippewas use stifling defense to rout Ball State, remain undefeated in MAC play
Junior guard Micaela Kelly walked to the bench after committing her second foul with 3:53 remaining in the opening quarter.
Central Michigan and Ball State were tied, 8-8, and the Chippewas were forced to play a significant amount of time against an undefeated Mid-American Conference opponent, Ball State, without the second-ranked scorer in the nation.
"I thought that was a perfectly executed game plan," coach Heather Oesterle said.
Though Kelly was forced to watch the rest of the first half from the bench due to her foul trouble, her teammates stepped up to shoulder the load she vacated.
With strong team defense and outside shooting, the Chippewas were able to knock off the Cardinals, 66-39, Wednesday night at McGuirk Arena and remained undefeated in MAC play.
The two teams played close early in the first quarter, facing an 8-8 stalemate when Kelly exited the contest. However, the Chippewas (11-4, 4-0 MAC) outscored the Cardinals, 8-2, over the final 3:53 to take a six-point advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Ball State, led by junior forward Oshlynn Brown, rallied to cut the deficit to two points with 3:46 to play in the half. Thelma Dis Agustsdottir hit a jumper to make it just 27-25 in favor of the Chippewas.
It was the last time the Chippewas allowed a basket for almost eight minutes.
Capitalizing on four missed Cardinal free throws, a missed layup and a turnover in the paint, the Chippewas closed the first half on a 5-0 spurt to take a 32-25 advantage into the locker room. They started the second half with ten more, capped off by a jumper from junior forward Kyra Bussell to make it 42-25.
"I knew they were gonna have trouble defending our on-ball (screens) with (Kelly) and Molly," Oesterle said. "When you have someone who can pick and pop like that with (Kyra) and Gabi, it's pretty hard to defend."
The Cardinals scored their first points of the second half on a 3-pointer from Jasmin Samz, but were outscored 20-5 in the third. Central Michigan took a 52-32 lead into the final quarter.
However, the offensive dominance was far from over for CMU.
Junior guard Maddy Watters hit a pair of triples, freshman guard Molly Davis hit one of her own and the Chippewas continued to pour it on the Cardinals in the fourth quarter. Central Michigan outscored Ball State, 34-14, in the second half and cruised to its fourth MAC victory.
The Chippewas were led in scoring by Bussell and Davis, who scored 15 and 14, respectively. Kelly had 11 and Watters finished with 10. Bussell led the team with eight rebounds and made three 3-pointers.
"I get in the gym and shoot threes just as much as I get in the gym and work on post moves," Bussell said, "Being as versatile as I am, it really helps my team."
The Cardinals were led in scoring by Brown with 10 points on the night.
The 39 points allowed by the Chippewas is a season-low.
Central next takes the court at 2 p.m. Saturday when it travels to Read Fieldhouse to face arch rival Western Michigan.