Ball State Basketball: Cards hope to follow success....

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Overwhelming, it wasn't, but she knew it could have been.

"I really tried to slow down long enough to enjoy it," said Ball State women's basketball coach Kelly Packard when reflecting on her team's 2008-2009 campaign.

It included a MAC West championship with a school best 26-9 record, a MAC tournament championship, and then a stunning victory over Tennessee in the first round of their first NCAA Tournament.

"I think that feeling of knowing that your were able to do something that you've come close to, it changes your perspective of how you feel about truly being able to take that final step which is to win that championship," said Packard on that season.

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Billy Taylor's men's team isn't at that level yet, in fact last season they finished three games below .500 at 14-17. But that was eight more than the year before, and thanks to some unusual records in the MAC the Cardinals captured the West Division title with a 7-9 conference record.

"We certainly don't want to be content with what we did last year," said Taylor of 2008-2009. "We made great strides and had great progress, but we want to accomplish even more."

To do so for both teams, however, it will mean having to do so with a young team, and without three of their top four scorers from last season: Anthony Newell (15.2 Points Per Game before season-ending leg injury), Brandon Lampley (10 P.P.G.), Laron Frazier (9.3 P.P.G.), and Rob Giles (8.6 P.P.G.).

That means that 12 of the15 players on the Ball State roster are either sophomores or freshman.

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"But we're still excited about they can potentially accomplish, we think we've got a great nucleas of young men with high character, who've been working extremely hard and we're excited about this year," said Taylor of the squad.

Someone the coach is really excited about, however, is sophomore Jarrod Jones-who was second in scoring on the team last season with 11.2 points per game. Taylor says he'll be looked to for a sizable part of the production, something the sophomore says he's ready for.

"I''ve just been trying to be a vocal leader and lead by example," said Jones of this season. "We had a good season last year, so I'm just doing all I can do to help our team build on that."

Things are a little different for Packard who will return three of her top four scorers: Emily Maggert (13.4 Points Per Game), Danielle Gratton (11.7 P.P.G.), and Audrey McDonald (11.5 Points Per Game). Porcia Green and Kiley Jarrett are the only two starters the Cardinals will lose from last season.

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"Each practice I see glimpses of understanding, I see some great passes at the right times and the right position on the floor," said Packard of her early impressions of the team. "I see them start to connect with where there teammates like to receive the ball, we're starting to build some continuity."

But before she or her team starting thinking too far ahead, the coach has tried to put things in perspective as they defend the MAC title.

"It is November basketball. I tell my self that every night," said Packard. "We don't have to be a great team in November we have to be a great team in March."

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