Morning Bird: Cards host Northern Illinois in pivotal MAC game

Good evening and welcome to the first edition of the Early Bird in 2012….

After a disappointing handful of games over the holiday break, which included four losses to just one win, Ball State (6-9, 1-1) returns to John E. Worthen Arena for pivotal Mid-American Conference game against Northern Illinois (6-8, 0-2) tonight at 7 p.m.

The Cardinals are 1-4 in their last five games and have dropped six of their last nine since they put together a three-game winning streak earlier this season. Losses include a 67-53 defeat to visiting Valparaiso on Dec. 18, an 80-39 thrashing from No. 14 Wisconsin-Green Bay on Dec. 20, a 60-58 home loss to Marshall on Dec. 31 and their latest defeat, a 76-64 loss at conference foe Western Michigan on Sunday.

Nonetheless, coach Kelly Packard is anxious to return to Worthern, where she owns a 19-7 record against conference opponents since the start of her tenure at Ball State in 2008-09.

“Being able to hold serve at home in when you’re in your conference is such a must, quite honestly,” Packard said. “The road is tough.”

The Cardinals are looking to put a string of wins together after dropping four of their last five games. In order to do so, Packard said her team must control the boards on both sides of the court.

“It’s kind of been a drum I’ve been beating and will continue to beat throughout the rest of the season,” Packard said. “When we rebound well, we usually position to win at the finish line. That’s a theme for us. We’ve responded to my plea for rebounding at certain times, certainly against Eastern Michigan. [They] outrebounded us by one, but that’s a team that outrebounds their opponents by eight. I said to our girls today that rebounding is a season specific topic. We can’t win if we don’t rebound the ball.”

Moving on…

It could be tough for the Cardinals to score from beyond the arc as the Huskies are the best team in the MAC in 3-point field goal percentage defense, yielding just over 26-percent long range jumpers to their opponents. Despite the Huskies’ impressive statistic, the Cardinals have a duo of players who have shined from beyond the arc this season. Freshman guard Brittany Carter currently ranks second in the MAC with a 44.6 shooting-percentage from long range, while sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens is fourth in the conference with a 40.6 3-point field goal percentage.

That’s all for now…





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