Brian Gallagher, For The Miami Student

Staring at a rare deficit as they headed into the locker room following the first half, the Miami University women’s basketball team needed answers. But they found them quickly in their energy on both ends of the floor as the RedHawks (16-5, 6-2 Mid-American Conference (MAC)) rolled to a 72-61 victory over Ball State University in front of a home crowd at Millett Hall.

“I’m really proud of the way the team responded in the second half,” Head Coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “After playing an inconsistent first half, it was good that the players stepped up in the second half and played with confidence.”

Junior guard Courtney Osborn led all scorers with 27 points and was the difference for the team in the second half. Not only did she score 16 points in that half alone, but her presence was felt everywhere, from taking a charge on the defensive end to sealing the win with two free throws at the end of the game.

Senior guard Maggie Boyer also added 15 points and senior forward Kirsten Olowinski dropped in 13 as the ‘Hawks finished their first half of MAC play with a win.

While Miami was able to shoot 52.4 percent from the floor in the first half, they found themselves down 36-34 at the break. Ball State was able to capitalize on second chance points and the play of their bench, which outscored the ‘Hawks 25-7 in the first half.

The RedHawks took their biggest lead of the half on a 6-0 run out of the gates after a three-pointer by Osborn but soon found themselves in a physical battle with a team that would not go away. At the 6:23 mark of the first half, the Cardinals had their biggest lead of the night at 30-22. However, the ‘Hawks were able to hold Ball State to just one point in the last four minutes and clawed their way back to a two-point deficit.

“We let them do what they wanted on offense a little bit in the first half,” Osborn said. “But towards the end of the half, we started playing better defense and started to dictate the game as opposed to the other way around.”

In the second half, the RedHawks took the lead early on an Olowinski jumper to make it 38-36 at 18:44, and they never looked back. The lead ballooned to 59-49 with just over eight minutes remaining as the Miami defense began to take its toll on Ball State.

The Cardinals were able to cut the lead to five at 64-59 with 2:49 remaining, but Boyer and Osborn slammed the door and led the team — as they have done all season — down the stretch to a

hard-earned victory.

“The team continued to compete throughout the game and that’s going to separate a lot of teams in the MAC,” Fantanarosa said. “But our focus will continue to be to stress the importance of fundamentals for all 40 minutes.”

Miami next heads to Central Michigan University Wednesday to face the Chippewas. But do not expect the mentality of the ‘Hawks to change based simply on a change of venue.

“Defense and rebounding are our biggest focuses this year and we’re going to continue that,” Osborn said. “We are taking pride on defense and that’s what has been winning games for us.”