CLEVELAND — Ball State saw all five of its starters score in double figures as it stunned top-seeded Bowling Green State University 73-55 Friday in the Mid-American Conference women’s tournament semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena.
The fifth-seeded Cardinals (18-15) advance to meet No. 4 seed Akron in today’s 1 p.m. championship game, with the winner gaining the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
In Friday’s other semifinal, the Zips (22-9) defeated second-seeded Central Michigan 85-69.
Despite the loss, the postseason is still not over for the Falcons (27-4), whose fate now rests in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which will announce the tournament pairings Monday night.
BGSU has already qualified for at least the National Invitational Tournament as the regular-season MAC champion but will wait to see if it receives an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The MAC in previous years has normally sent just one team to the NCAAs.
“I believe we have presented a resume that could qualify,” Roos said. “It was an emotional locker room today, but I continue to tell them we’re not done.”
Junior Shelbie Justice led the charge for the Cardinals with 21 points and four assists. She hit on 5-of-7 3-pointers.
“I got big shots at big times, but that was my teammates giving me that extra pass,” Justice said. “We looked at each other and said, ‘It’s time; let’s go get it.’”
Joining Justice in double figures for Ball State were Brandy Woody with 16 points, Brittany Carter with 13 and Katie Murphy and Nathalie Fontaine with 10 each.
Ball State’s starters combined for 70 points, 25 rebounds and 12 assists, while its bench had just three points, two rebounds and two assists.
Justice scored 16 points in the first half to help the Cardinals get out to a 33-27 lead by intermission.
As the Falcons’ offense began to sputter, the Cardinals stayed efficient and built a 40-30 lead three minutes into the second half.
The Falcons trailed 42-36 with 15:11 remaining in the contest but never got closer.
“Today was a big-time win and I’m proud as a coach to live weeks like this,” Cardinals coach Brady Sallee said. “To get a win over a team that good makes it all the more sweeter.”
Ball State shot 47.9 percent (22 of 48) overall to BGSU’s 33.3 (19 of 57).
“We were getting good looks, but we couldn’t get a lot to fall in the first half,” BGSU coach Jennifer Roos said. “(Ball State) was ready to play today and we were unable to slow them down.”
Erica Donovan led the Falcons with 17 points, converting 7-of-14 from the field but making just one of her six 3-point attempts.
Jillian Halfhill added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Falcons and Alexis Rogers had nine points and 10 rebounds.
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