Early Bird: Despite loss, Cards showed heart

Good day. Let’s get down to business…

In my preview of last night’s matchup between the dominant Bowling Green Falcons and struggling Ball State Cardinals, I wasn’t fooling anyone by saying that the visiting Falcons were rolling on all cylinders.

The odds were heavily against the Cardinals. They were up against a team that has been notoriously consistent in winning over the years. The Falcons are the seven-time defending Mid-American Conference Champions. Falcons’ coach Curt Miller had 250 career-wins as BG’s coach heading into the game as opposed to just 56 wins for Ball State coach Kelly Packard. Miller, a five-time MAC Coach of Year recipient, is the third-winningest coach in MAC women’s basketball history during league competition. To add to his accolades, Miller became the fastest MAC coach to reach 200 wins.

As a team, the Falcons have three players who averaged 10 or more points per game, including junior guard and Carmel, Ind. native Chrissy Steffen (14.6 points/game), sophomore forward and Duke transfer Alexis Rogers (12.5 points/game) and senior guard Jessica Slagle (10.6 points/game). That’s a tough lineup to matchup against when your leading scorer, sophomore forward Jazmin Hitchens averaged 10.7 points heading into the game.

But the young Cardinals held their own against the mighty Falcons. Despite trailing by 17 at the half, the Cardinals held a two-point advantage in points in the paint, second chance points and drew even with their opponents in rebounds, with 15.

Their inability to make easy buckets at opportune times plagued the Cardinals all night long, along with the multitude of lousy turnovers. On many occasions, the Cardinals turned the ball over on a baseline out-of-bounds play, which resulted in points the other way.

“Our kids battled to the end,” Packard said, following the game. “They were at one point up [a lot]. The fact that we closed it down means that we didn’t give up. That’s important right now. They’re 7-0. That’s as best as it gets in the MAC right now. There was a point there where we could have really folded, and we didn’t.”

It was a loss that was expected. In fact, it was believed that the Cardinals should’ve lost by wider margin than the actual 11-point margin once the final buzzer sounded.

But winning is more than just a mindset. It’s an attitude. It’s a culture, a way of life. Taking care of the little things builds a foundation for success. The Cardinals have an assortment of young talent, which makes it difficult to rack up a bunch of wins. This team is and will continue to suffer through a vast amount of growing pains, but the future looks bright.

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