Early Bird: Zips lead 43-31 at halftime

Following its previous game at Toledo on Thursday night, Ball State was envisioned holding Akron in check on the boards and underneath the basket, but a late surge gave the visitors a 43-31 lead as the first half came to a close.

The Cardinals started off strong against the Zips. Sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens missed a long-range jumper, but classmate forward Katie Murphy snagged the rebound, pivoted, and made the layup with 16:42 remaining in the half. Just 38 seconds later, Murphy grabbed another board and made the routine layup to give the Cardinals a 10-7 lead.

But the Zips came roaring back thanks in large part to sophomore guard/forward Sina King, who led both teams with 10 points and tied for the lead with five rebounds. Time after time King was dealt uncontested looks at the basket, resulting in easy buckets for the Zips.

To cap the first half, Zips’ senior guard Natasha Williams dribbled through the entire Cardinals’ defense en route to the basket where she would ultimately make the layup and draw a foul with 1.6 seconds to go before halftime.

***

From press row…The Cardinals and Zips are sit to tip off in under a half hour here at Worthen Arena. I thought I would go ahead and share a few pieces of noteworthy information with you pertaining to today’s game.

  • Despite owning an overall record of 8-11, Akron’s offense is ranked in the top 25 in virtually every category. Akron is 22nd in field goal percentage (.439), 21st in scoring offense (74.8 points/game) and 25th in 3-point field goals made per game (6.9).
  • The Zips lead the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense, field goal percentage, 3-point field goals made per game and assists (15.7/game). The Zips rank second in the MAC with a 0.8 assist/turnover ratio.
  • Junior guard Taylor Ruper ranks 11th in the country in 3-point field goals made per game (3.0) and 17th in 3-point field goal percentage (.422).
  • Coach Kelly Packard said the most important thing for her team to do this afternoon is to defend the transition game. “We need to continue to protect our home court as we begin MAC East divisional play,” Packard said, according to the official game notes. “Akron has a balanced scoring attack fed largely in part by their transition offense. Subtracting transition baskets will be a core focus of our team defense.”

***

Good evening and welcome to this edition of the Early BirdA 63-48 loss at Mid-American Conference Western Division rival Toledo capped a dismal two-game road swing for Ball State. A horrid shooting average of 26 percent combined with poor interior defense resulted in more frustration for this young team.

But unlike other sports, such as football, where a team must sit on a loss for an entire week before getting another opportunity to win, basketball, in some instances, is played multiple times per week.

Ball State returns to Worthen Arena, with another chance to muster out a win when it plays host to Eastern Division foe Akron at 1 p.m.

The Zips enter today’s game having dropped three of their last five games. In their latest game, the Zips lost a heartbreaker, 72-71 in overtime at conference opponent Ohio. Despite the loss, three Zips reached double figures in scoring, including sophomore guard Sina King, who notched a team-leading 15 points, junior guard Taylor Ruper, who recorded 14 points and sophomore guard Hanna Luburgh, who tallied 12 points. King also led the Zips with 16 boards in the loss.

Playing at Worthen has been advantageous for the Cardinals over the last few seasons. Since coach Kelly Packard’s inaugural season in 2008, the Cardinals are 37-18 during the regular season at home and 20-7 at home during conference games. In their nine home games this season, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by 11 points.

The Cardinals have dropped two of their last three games to the Zips. In 2008-09, the Cardinals came away with a 61-55 road win. In 2009-10, the Zips clung to a 66-64 overtime win at Worthern. And last season, the Zips cruised to a 78-65 home victory.

Ball State currently finds itself in a two-way tie with Western Michigan for fourth place in the Western Division standings. Both the Cardinals and Broncos will tipoff this afternoon. A win would draw the Cardinals closer in the division, while a loss would sink them even further.

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