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2023 Women’s National Invitational Tournament Second Round Recap: Memphis Tigers 79, Ball State Cardinals 62

The Cardinals dropped their second-round WNIT game after late Memphis burst, ending their storied season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 20 Women’s Ball State at Notre Dame Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ball State fell to Memphis 79-62 in the second round of the WNIT tournament on Monday, bringing the Cardinals’ successful campaign to a close.

The first quarter of play inside Memphis’s Elma Roane Fieldhouse saw the Cardinals struggle mightily on the offensive end, digging them an early deficit. Ball State connected on just 3-of-16 field goals and 0-of-7 three point attempts. The Cardinal and White had great difficulty reaching double digits in the first ten minutes, and trailed the Tigers 26-10 at the end of the quarter.

Much like the Ball State’s first-round matchup, the Cardinals recovered from a slow start to find their groove in the second quarter. The squad shot an improved 7-of-14 clip from the field, which was highlighted from an onslaught of six three-pointers. Outscoring the Tigers 22-13 in the second frame, the Ball State cut their sizable deficit to just seven points heading into halftime.

The Cardinals continued to scorch the nets after making halftime adjustments, shooting an efficient 9-of-13 on field goals. Their impressive offensive production allowed it to trim Memphis’s lead to as few as four points midway the quarter, but the Tigers had little trouble answering each Ball State run. Memphis remained in control of its seven-point edge with one quarter remaining, leading 60-53.

Although the momentum swings were fairly even throughout the second and third quarters, the Tigers seized the momentum in the final quarter. Fueled by their passionate faithful of 1,556 crammed into the intimate arena, Memphis exhibited its finest stretch of play in the fourth frame. The Tigers’ tightened defensive pressure stymied the Cardinals’ offensive weapons, while they continued to execute on their offensive sets. The closely-contested game ended with a 19-9 fourth quarter in favor of Memphis.

A quick glance through the box score will reveal that the Cardinals was more intentional with their ball movement by committing six fewer turnovers, and that Ball State was the more active defensive team, logging more blocks and steals.

Although Coach Brady Sallee’s team excelled in those two crucial areas, its ineffectiveness on the glass was its Achilles heel all night. The contest saw a brutal 44-20 rebounding disadvantage for the Cardinals, which resulted in Memphis logging 19 second-chance points, relative to Ball State’s two.

Ball State was led in scoring by a pair of senior guards who strongly contributed to the program during their careers, Anna Clephane and Thelma Dis Agustsdottir.

Clephane closed out her career with a 15-point outing. The Taylor Mill, Ky. native was a key piece of the Cardinals’ program since her arrival in 2018, and battled multiple injuries to achieve great heights in her career, such as All-MAC First Team honors this season.

Dis Agustsdottir posted 11 points and three assists in her final game in a Ball State uniform. The Iceland product spent her entire five-year career in Muncie, and will leave as the program’s all-time leader in threes with 324.

The Cardinals also have three other seniors on their roster, but each of them have one more year of eligibility remaining.

Ball State finishes with a 26-9 overall record and a 14-4 MAC record, tied for the highest win totals in each category in program history.

Memphis’s win advances it to the Super 16 round of the WNIT. The Tigers will square off against the MAC’s automatic qualifier, Bowling Green, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 inside the Stroh Center.