15-0 run gives Cards two-point lead at halftime

Following a pair of frustrating losses, Ball State had minimal room for error in its non-conference finale against visiting Marshall. The Herd jumped out to a 9-2 run to open the game. But the Cardinals responded with a run of their own, nursing a 28-26 lead at intermission.

The scoring surge started with a free throw from junior guard Shanee’ Jackson, and then the Cardinals took off. Sophomore guard Brandy Woody followed with a layup before sophomore forward Jazmine Hitchens sank a 3-point field goal to pull the Cardinals within one. An easy layup from senior center co-captain Amber Crago gave the Cardinals a 10-9 lead, their first of the game.

The scoring didn’t stop there. What started out as a seven point deficit resulted in a 15-0 run by the home team.

Hitchens tallied nine first-half points, converting four of seven field goals and a three-point field goal. Junior guard Shanee’ Jackson recorded seven points.

 

Grossnickle heads Cardinals to five-point halftime lead

Senior co-captain forward Suzanne Grossnickle averaged just under eight minutes per game heading into this afternoon’s contest against Austin Peay.

Through the first 20 minutes, Grossnickle has been at the center of Ball State’s offense. She leads the team with 12 points, including two 3-point field goals and has converted four of her seven field goals. While scoring points, Grossnickle has been an unstoppable force underneath the basket, pulling down a team-leading seven rebounds, including four offensive boards.

Freshman guard Brittany Carter has had a noteworthy half as well for Ball State. Her eight points is second to Grossnickle at the half as well as her two 3-point jumpers. Both Grossnickle and Carter have combined for 20 of Ball State’s 34 points at the half, nearly 59-percent of the scoring.

Friday evening against Butler, the Cardinals struggled to maintain control of the basketball, committing 27 turnovers. So far against the Governors, the Cardinals have been guilty of just seven turnovers. The Cardinals assist to turnover ratio has also increased to 1.14 compared to the Governors’ 0.36.

Cardinals arrive at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse

INDIANAPOLIS–Six days removed from its 78-73 double overtime triumph over Stetson, Ball State took a short bus ride to Hinkle Fieldhouse, where it will square off with the Butler Bulldogs of the Horizon League.

The Cardinals (4-4) are looking to accomplish something they have yet to do this season; play great team defense on the road. According to coach Kelly Packard, that’s her main focus heading into tonight’s game against the Bulldogs.

“The challenge is we’ve not played great team defense on the road,” Packard said. Certainly not at Wright State, Evansville [or] SIUE. I think our strong defensive performances have been at home, specifically Murray State and Stetson. Being able to carry that on the road is something we’ve not done and [it’s] something we’ve talked about and really worked on this week.”

Ball State is just 1-3 on the road this season, but won its most recent game away from John E. Worthen Arena against Evansville on Nov. 29. A fast start and maintaining its poise will be important for this young team.

Packard labeled this game as solely a business trip.

“Right now we’ve got eight players that are freshmen or sophomores and just developing that mindset in them when you go on the road is important,” Packard said. “Yes, you want to enjoy the time with your teammates, but ultimately, you’re going there for a two-hour, intensive business focus. Two hours of intense business focus for us is the competition in itself.”

 

Promising start results in six-point deficit for Ball State

Jumping out to superb start, which included building an 11-point lead less than seven minutes into the game, Ball State couldn’t maintain and build off its double digit lead, allowing Stetson to crawl back and take a six-point lead at the intermission.

Freshman guard Brittany Carter opened the scoring flood for the Cardinals with a 3-point field goal just 12 seconds into the game. Her second consecutive 3-point jumper gave Ball State a 6-4 advantage and it looked as if the home team was cruising.

But costly turnovers and miscues caught up to the Cardinals. The Cardinals committed 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play, which proved to be crucial in their inability to score late in the first half.

Ball State’s 11-point lead at the mid-way point of the first half slowly diminished. The Hatters tied the game at 23-23 with 4:05 to play, and took the lead on a Shanasa Sanders’ 3-point field goal with 2:28 remaining. The Hatters took advantage of the Cardinals’ turnovers, piecing together a 17-2 run to close out the first half.

The fast start, which could’ve benefited the Cardinals greatly, went to waste. Down by six with 20 minutes to play, the Cardinals have to pick up the intensity.

***

Good afternoon from inside John E. Worthen Arena, where the Ball State lady Cardinals will wrap up their brief two-game home stand with a 1 p.m. tip off against the Stetson Hatters of the Atlantic Sun conference.

Ball State enters today’s game having won three of its last four games. It’s three-game winning streak was snapped by Detroit Mercy on Thursday night as Ball State fell 87-68 on its home floor. The Cardinals had three players score in double figures against the Titans, including freshman Brittany Carter, who led the bunch with a career-best 15 points. Sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens also had another solid outing for the red and white, pitching in with 14 points. Senior center and co-captain Amber Crago tied her career-high with 12 points-(Crago set her 12-point career-high at Western Michigan on February 20, 2010). Ball State tied its second-highest point total of the season with 68 against Detroit Mercy. The Cardinals season-high came against visiting Murray State on Nov. 19 in an 81-72 triumph.

Stetson enters today’s game with a mark of 6-2, including wins over Bradley, Winthrop, Miami (OH) and ETSU. The Hatters have started just five players this season, including freshmen Clarissa Coddington and Cherisse Burris, sophomore Sasha Sims and juniors Shanasa Sanders and Victoria McGowan. The Hatters are full of talent. Sanders was awarded the Atlantic Sun Newcomer of the Week after recording career-highs in points with 24 at in a 77-62 losing effort to USF and eight rebounds in a 71-62 triumph over Miami. McGowan and Sims are also legitimate offensive threats for the Hatters. McGowan averages 14 points per game while leading the team in steals. Sims, who averages over 11 points per game, leads the group with a 92.6 shooting-percentage from the charity stripe thus far-a remarkable stat. In addition to her excellent form at the line, Sims heads the Hatters with 68 total rebounds, an average of 8.5 per game.

Outlook…

On paper, this game appears to be another tough challenge for this young Cardinals team. The offensive firepower of the Hatters could prove to be problematic for the Cardinals. Minimizing the number of second chances on the boards and playing sound, fundamental basketball will be key. Also, the team chemistry has to start to show. Against the Titans, the Cardinals couldn’t maintain consistent offensive pressure. On a number of occasions, the Cardinals weren’t getting clean looks at the basket and were taking unnecessary shots. It’ll be interesting to see how this team bounces back with minimal rest and just one day to prepare for this stout Stetson bunch.

Probable Starters…

Stetson

Clarissa Coddington (FR), Guard

Cherisse Burris, (FR), Forward

Shanasa Sanders, (JR), Guard

Sasha Sims, (SO), Forward

Victoria McGowan, (JR), Guard

Ball State

Brandy Woody (SO), Guard

Brittany Carter (FR), Guard

Jazmin Hitchens (SO), Forward

Katie Murphy (SO), Forward

Amber Crago (SR), Center

Early Bird: Cardinals regress in 87-68 loss to Detroit Mercy

Good afternoon and happy Friday…

After watching last night’s lopsided women’s basketball game between the suddenly emerging Ball State Cardinals and the winless Detroit Mercy Titans, I realized how easy it is to regress rather than progress, especially for a very young team.

Following a hard-fought and much-needed 55-50 victory at in-state rival Evansville on Tuesday night, Ball State’s confidence was soaring. The momentum was riding with the Cardinals. But, for a team still searching for a consistent winning formula, growing pains can be taxing. Thursday night was a notable struggle for the Cardinals, as they ran into a team who was desperately hungry for a win.

The Cardinals scored first on sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens’ jump shot just 20 seconds in, but the game was over before the home team could catch their breath. The Titans tied the game on their next possession on freshman forward Shareta Brown’s layup, and never looked back. A three-point deficit quickly turned into a 10-point hole for the Cardinals, had trouble penetrating the Titan’s sagging man defense.

Coach Kelly Packard, who was thoroughly disappointed in her team’s performance, said Detroit Mercy was the best winless team she has seen on film. And respectively so.

“They unloaded on us last year at their place, so I knew it was going to be difficult,” Packard said.

The Titans were not only difficult, they were ambitious and demanding of the basketball in both the offensive and defensive zones. It was as if this team was playing with a perfect record instead of an 0-6 mark. Brown, who was unstoppable, charted 21 points, 15 of which came in the first half, and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, while sinking seven of her eight free throws.

The 6-foot rookie played like a fourth-year senior. Packard said Brown is truly a remarkable player with a bundle of talent in all phases of the game.

“The big kid, Brown, is just really skilled for a freshman,” Packard said. “She’s posting double digit numbers in scoring and rebounding as an average so far in her freshman year.”

The Cardinals attempted numerous strategies to try and slow down Brown, but none of them worked. When double teamed, Brown recognized the situation and either charged to the basket or dished the ball out one of her teammates on the perimeter. When the Cardinals opted to go with man coverage, Brown used her size and athleticism to her advantage, scoring at will and causing chaos for the Cardinals’ defense.

Senior co-captain Amber Crago, who stands at 6-foot-3, defended Brown for the majority of the game. Despite Crago’s experience and height advantage, Brown was too skilled.

“She is a good player,” Crago said, following the game. “I could have stepped it up definitely. She has our respect. We saw her make [14] shots and she’s only a freshman. She’s on her way up from here.”

Packard who concurred with Crago, said Brown is the best freshman she’s seen in recent memory.

“She’s got good tempo when she catches,” Packard said. “She doesn’t force ugly shots. For her size, she also passes out of double [teams] really well. Those are things that make her an outstanding player.”

The Cardinals trailed by 11 points at the half. The deficiency of the first half proved to be too much for them to handle. Despite a 40-point half by the Cardinals, the Titans tallied 48.

The frustrations were evident on Packard’s face. The offense stalled and the defense failed to make enough timely stops. The Cardinals shot fairly well in the first half, 40.6-percent from the field. But the Titans converted nearly 50-percent of their field goals.

Despite the delayed results from the Cardinals offense, Packard believes her team will eventually buy into the new scheme.

“We got to stay committed to it, supplement it with some quick hits where we can and keep them encouraged with it,” Packard said. “At times we’ve looked really good.”

The Cardinals certainly didn’t look good Thursday night. Fatigue was a big factor in their 19-point loss, and Packard couldn’t put a finger on why her team was so exhausted.

“The milestone for me in this game is our fatigue,” Packard said. “That’s a little perplexing knowing that we gave them several days off for Thanksgiving. [I’m] trying to put a finger on whether we need to address that from a cardio standpoint and my gut says that we don’t. Or if we just need to shorten up a couple of practices and just work on the intensity of the time that we have.”

Nonetheless, the loss was tough to swallow for the Cardinals, who had pieced together a three-game winning streak before being dismantled by the Titans.

“It was really tough,” Crago said. “We really prepared at practice. I know it might not have shown in the game, but I know we still grew today. We stayed together. We’re a young team and chemistry is a big deal. At the end, we still stuck together where other times maybe we wouldn’t have done so.

“We have [today] off and we just [have] to come back Saturday focused and united. That’s our biggest thing. If you’re together, you can do anything. We just got to get our rest and come back ready to hit it and put this game behind us.”

*What’s on Tap:

The Cardinals will conclude their brief two-game home stand with a 1 p.m. tip-off against the Stetson Hatters of the Atlantic Sun conference. The Hatters own a 6-2 mark this season and have won two of their last three games, including a 71-62 win over Miami (OH) on Nov. 25, and a 68-60 triumph over ETSU Thursday night. The Hatters own a 5-2 non-conference record this season and are 1-2 away from The J. Ollie Edmunds Center.

*Taking a quick look at the Hatters…Stetson has started five players in their first eight games of the season, including freshmen Clarissa Coddington and Cherisse Burris along with sophomore Sasha Sims and juniors Shanasa Sanders and Victoria McGowan. Sanders, who was awarded the A-Sun Newcomer of the Week after recording career-highs in points (24) and rebounds (8). The accolade was a career-first for Sanders. She also posted 17 points and eight rebounds against Miami (OH), and totaled 24 points in a 77-62 loss at USF on Monday. For the week, Sanders averaged over 20 points with a 48.4 shooting percentage from the field, along with over six rebounds and two assists per game. McGowan and Sims are also legitimate offensive threats for the Hatters. McGowan averages 14 points per game, and has eight 20-point games in her career. Sims leads the group with 68 total rebounds, an average of 8.5 per game. Sims also averages more than 11 points per game.

*Outlook:

On paper, this game appears to be another tough challenge for this young Cardinals team. The offensive firepower of the Hatters could prove to be problematic for the Cardinals. Minimizing the number of second chances on the boards and playing sound fundamental basketball will be key. Also, the team chemistry has to start to show. Against the Titans, the Cardinals couldn’t maintain consistent offensive pressure. On a number of occasions, the Cardinals weren’t getting clean looks and were taking unnecessary shots. It’ll be interesting to see how this team bounces back with minimal rest and just one day to prepare for the Hatters.

 

Cards getting whipped at the half

Facing an opponent with a winless record, Ball State laid an egg in the first half against Detroit Mercy. Aside from sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens’s team-leading eight points, the offense went dry, the transition game never formed and the defense couldn’t contain Titans’ freshman sensation Shareta Brown, who is the leading scorer with 15 points at the half. For Brown, those numbers are about right. She averages a double-double per game.

The Cardinals were plagued by turnovers in the opening half, committing 10 of them, which resulted in 14 points for their opponent. If the Cardinals want to scrape together a win tonight, those numbers need to change in the second half.

Another area the Cardinals are being whipped in is points in the paint. The Titans have scored 22 of the 39 total points in the painted area. Again, that has to change for the Cardinals to have a chance in the second half. It starts up front with seniors Amber Crago and Suzanne Grossnickle and trickles down to playing sound, fundamental basketball.

Detroit Mercy certainly isn’t playing like the 0-6 team that they are.

***

Tonight’s probable starting lineups:

Detroit Mercy

Jalesa Jones (SR), G

Chanahl Putnam (JR), G

Lauren Allen (SR), G

Shareta Brown (FR), F

Yar Shayok (JR), F

Ball State

Brandy Woody (SO), G

Brittany Carter (FR), G

*Jazmin Hitchens (SO), F

Katie Murphy (SO), F

Amber Crago (SR), C

*Tonight’s game marks the home debut for sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens. Following a two-game suspension for violating team rules to begin the season, Hitchens has seen action four of Ball State’s six games this season. Hitchens made her season debut on Tuesday night at Evansville.

***

Good evening from John E. Worthen Arena…

Tonight, the Cardinals begin a brief two-game home stand against the Detroit Mercy Titans. After an impressive 55-50 victory on the road at Evansville on Tuesday, the Cardinals return home where they are 2-1 on the season.

The win over Evansville snapped a 14-game road losing streak for Ball State and evened its overall record to 3-3 as we enter December. For the third time this season, sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens led the Cardinals offensively with 11 points. Fellow sophomore Katie Murphy headed the defensive unit by coming down with a career-high 12 boards.

Look for both Hitchens and Murphy to factor into tonight’s game, as coach Kelly Packard will rely on them to jump start the Cardinals, who are looking to go above .500 for the first this season.

Detroit Mercy is off to a rocky start, dropping all six of its contests to open up the 2011-12 season. Despite their record, the Titans have been in every game until the last second. Every game has been extremely close. The Titans lost to Indiana State by two (64-62), Drexel (61-56), Howard (60-58), Bowling Green (57-49), Utah (64-55) and UTSA (59-55).

Freshman forward Shareta Brown, who averages a double-double per game, leads the Titans offensively this season. Brown is converting an amazing 51.6-percent of her field goals. Junior guard Chanahl Putnam has also been at the center of attention for the Titans. Putnam averages more than 11 points per game and converts nearly 38-percent of her 3-point field goals to lead the team.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Packard utilizes her players against this Titans team. As Packard acknowledged Tuesday night; “This is not a team that’s going to be easy for us whatsoever.” It could certainly shape up to be a battle.