Women’s basketball out of MAC Tournament after loss to Ball State

By Frank Gogola

Women’s basketball’s 2013-14 season came to a close in the second round of the MAC Tournament when it suffered its third loss of the season to Ball State.

The No. 9 seed Huskies (11-19, 7-13 MAC) lost to the No. 5 seed Ball State Cardinals (16-15, 11-9 MAC), 61-47, March 12 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Huskies and Cardinals met twice during the regular season, with BSU winning both games.

Ball State flew out of the gates, opening the game on an 11-0 run. The Huskies would never climb out of that hole, fighting an uphill the battle and trailing 31-23 at the half.

“I thought Ball State did a good job of keeping us in a half-court game,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We, this year, just because of our personnel, I feel we’ve gone to [the transition game], and when we’ve had an opportunity to get out and run, those are the games we’ve won.”

The Huskies poured in the opening bucket of the second half before the Cardinals rattled off nine straight points to take a 40-25 lead at the first media timeout (15:56).

Trailing 42-29, sophomore guard Alexis Lindstrom drained two 3-pointers, and junior forward Natecia Augusta and freshman guard Ally Lehman each added a basket to pull the Huskies within five points, 44-39; that would be as close as they got.

Ball State proceeded to go on an 8-0 run that sealed the victory. Despite a fight to the end, the Huskies lost to the Cardinals, 61-46.

“I think the experience for a young team to get to Cleveland to see what it’s about was very important,” Bennett said. “… It was very good for us to end the way it has; we wanted the win, of course. If we would have shot the ball a little bit better, been a little bit more confident, had a little bit more energy in our legs, I think it could have been a tighter game.”

The Cardinals outrebounded the Huskies, 39-24, and outshot them beyond the arc, 37.5 percent (6-16) to 27.3 percent (3-11). NIU made it to the free-throw line 10 times, sinking six attempts; however, Ball State made the trip to the charity stripe 26 times, draining 23 attempts.

Augusta paced NIU with 13 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking one shot.

“Today, she had to score more from the perimeter,” Bennett said. “Her shots were 15-, 10-footers on some clock action because Ball State … they don’t guard certain people and they gapped it up, so she countered that.”

Lehman and redshirt junior guard Danny Pulliam each added 10 points. Lindstrom, coming off a 31-point game, was the only other Huskie with more than two points, chipping in eight.

Ball State sophomore guard Nathalie Fontaine scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. She added one assist, one steal and one block.