MUNCIE, Ind. - The Miami University women's basketball team has completed a successful non-conference season. Now the quest for a Mid-American Conference Championship begins. The RedHawks will start the journey on the road as they travel to Muncie, Ind. to take on Ball State on Thursday at 7 p.m. Tim Bray will have the call and it can be heard live on Miami All-Access for those who have a subscription.
WHY BALL STATE: Longtime Miami fans are probably wondering why the 'Hawks are opening play against Ball State, a West Division opponent. The MAC has gone to a new format this season which sees teams playing a random schedule in their first 11 contests. There will be times when division and crossover games are happening at the same time (for example, Miami's MAC East rivals Kent State and Bowling Green face each other in their conference opener on Thursday). After each team has played the other teams once, the final five games will be reserved for division play, where the RedHawks will face their MAC East Division rivals for a second time. This will be the only year for this format, as next season the conference will play an 18-game schedule with a still to-be-determined format.
MAC OPENERS: Miami is 19-12 all-time in MAC openers. Last season the RedHawks defeated Akron, 95-85 in overtime, to begin conference play. That was the game where Courtney Osborn scored a school-and-MAC record 48 points. The RedHawks last played Ball State in the league opener during the 1999-00 season before the previous division format had been adopted. In that game the Cardinals came away with a 77-65 victory. Miami is 2-1 all-time in MAC openers against Ball State.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS: Ball State finished the non-conference season at 3-10. The Cardinals have played only one game in the past 23 days, a 58-53 loss at Valparaiso on Dec. 29. Injuries have been a problem for new head coach Brady Sallee, as he has often only had seven healthy players able to suit up, with a pair of games having only six. Ball State did have eight available players in its last game against Valpo, with two players making their season debuts. The Cardinals have been led by freshman guard Nathalie Fontaine. The Stockholm, Sweden native is averaging 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Another key player has been junior guard Brandy Woody. She is averaging 11.0 points per contest. Ball State has been outrebounded by an average of 7.4 boards per game in its 13 games this season.
SERIES WITH BALL STATE: Miami holds a 40-19 record all-time against Ball State. The series is unique in that the RedHawks hold a commanding 24-3 record at Millett Hall, while the Cardinals lead the series, 14-13, in Muncie (Miami leads 3-2 in neutral site games). In fact, the RedHawks are looking for their first victory at Worthen Arena since an 86-83 win on Dec. 3, 1998. Last season in Oxford, Miami defeated Ball State, 72-61, on Jan. 28, 2012. The RedHawks overcame a two-point halftime deficit with a dominant second half performance. Courtney Osborn led Miami with 27 points in the victory.
UP NEXT FOR THE REDHAWKS: Miami will complete its long road trip when it heads to Kalamazoo on Sunday to take on Western Michigan at 2 p.m. Tim Bray will have the call and it can be heard live on Miami All-Access for those who have a subscription.