CLEVELAND, Ohio – The fifth-seeded Ball State women’s basketball team saw its Cinderella run in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament come to an end Saturday afternoon with a 79-68 loss to No. 3 seed Akron in the championship game played in Quicken Loans Arena.
Playing its fifth game in the last six days, the underdog Cardinals (18-16) found themselves trailing by 22 points with 8:23 left in the game. However, four three-pointers from junior guard Brittany Carter over the next four minutes helped Ball State rally within 10 with 4:05 left to play.
Unfortunately, the Zips (23-9) would buckle down on defense in the end, holding on to win the program’s first MAC Tournament title game and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
The Ball State women's basketball team now awaits a possible postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament bid which will be announced Monday.
For their efforts over the entire MAC Tournament, senior guard Brandy Woody and junior guard Shelbie Justice were named to the MAC All-Tournament Team.
In addition, junior guard Shelbie Justice set the mark for three-pointers made in a single MAC Tournament, hitting 15 trifectas over BSU’s five games in the event. The previous record was 12 set by Bowling Green’s Tracy Pontius in 2009.
Carter would lead the Cardinals with 23 points in the loss, with 20 coming in the second half. Carter was 7-for-9 from the field in the second stanza, including a 6-for-8 effort from behind the three-point arc. She also dished out three assists and tallied a block over the final 20 minutes to help spur the Cardinals comeback attempt. Carter finished the game with four assists and a team-high seven rebounds.
Woody led the Cardinals over the first 20 minutes of play, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the opening frame. Woody would play a team-high 36 minutes in the title game, adding six rebounds and three assists.
Rounding out Ball State’s double-digit scorers in the MAC Tournament championship game was sophomore guard Nathalie Fontaine with 14 points.
Akron’s Rachel Tecca led all scorers with 30 points, while tying for game-high honors with 12 rebounds. Carly Young also scored in double-figures for the Zips, posting 15 points.
Both teams traded baskets in the opening minutes, with Ball State clinging to a slim 6-5 lead at the 18:16 mark following a layup from Fontaine. Akron would then put together an 11-5 run to go up 16-11 with 13:24 left on the clock.
The Zips would continue to control the remainder of the first half despite Justice and Renee Bennett connecting on back-to-back baskets to make it a three-point contest (33-30) with 4:28 remaining. Akron would close the opening half with an 8-0 run to take a 41-30 advantage into at intermission.
The Zips carried over the momentum into the second half, opening with a 9-2 run to pull ahead 50-32 with just three minutes shaved off the clock. The Zips would go on to build a 25-point cushion with 10:41 remaining in the contest.
Carter would knock down four of her six second-half three-pointers during a four-minute span to bring Ball State to within 10 (73-63) with 4:05 left to play. Unfortunately, Akron picked up its defensive play over the final four minutes to hold on for a 79-68 win.