CLEVELAND, Ohio - - All five starters scored in double figures to lift the Ball State women’s basketball team to a thrilling 73-55 win over 25th-ranked Bowling Green in semifinal action of the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday afternoon in Quicken Loans Arena.
With its seventh-straight victory, the fifth-seeded Cardinals (18-15) advance to the MAC Tournament Championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2009. Ball State, which will be making its fifth championship game appearance, will face No. 3 seed Akron (22-9) who upset No. 2 Central Michigan 85-69.
Junior guard Shelbie Justice put on a shooting clinic to help hand the top-seeded Falcons (27-4) just their fourth loss of the season, connecting for a career-high 21 points, including a 5-for-7 effort from behind the three-point arc.
Senior guard Brandy Woody chipped in 16 points for the Cardinals, while junior guard Brittany Carter added 13 to go along with a team-high tying six rebounds. Sophomore guard Nathalie Fontaine and senior forward Katie Murphy each tallied 10 points in the win, with Fontaine also grabbing six boards and all of Murphy’s points came from the free throw line.
The Falcons scored the first basket after winning the tip, but the Cardinals responded quickly with a 12-3 run to take the early seven-point edge with 15:10 remaining in the first half. Bowling Green battled back to take a 25-21 lead with 6:00 remaining in the half. However, the Cardinals responded by scoring 12 of the final 14 points in the half to take a 33-27 lead into the locker room.
With the score tied at 27-27 and 3:05 left on the first-half clock, Justice and Carter connected for back-to-back three-pointers to cap the scoring in the half. Justice scored 16 of her career-high 21 points in the first half, while the Cardinals defense held Bowling Green's top scorer Alexis Rogers to only four points going into intermission.
Ball State carried its momentum into the second half, building a 10-point (42-32) cushion at the 16:14 mark after a layup from Carter. Bowling Green began to climb its way back into the ball game, cutting Ball State’s lead to six (42-36) with just five minutes shaved off the clock.
The Cardinals quickly regained control, however, orchestrating a 12-6 run to pull ahead 54-39 after a layup from Fontaine with just under nine minutes left in the contest. The Falcons were able to battle back within eight (60-52) with 4:50 to play, but the Cardinals closed the game with a 13-3 run to win 73-55.