Due to technical difficulties, there was only enough time to announce Ball State's lineup before Saturday afternoon's game against the University at Buffalo in Alumni Arena.
But it didn't take long for the Bulls to establish their identity against one of the top women's basketball teams in the Mid-American Conference.
UB lurched to a 12-0 start and took a 21-point first-half lead before holding off Ball State, 79-69, in front of 882 fans. Tiffany Bell scored 28 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had three blocks to lead four Bulls in double figures.
"We had to beat someone that's higher than us, to let people know we can play with (the best teams) in the conference, not just the teams that we should be beating," Bell said.
The Cardinals received 21 points to rank 33rd in this week's Associated Press poll. They also came into Saturday ranked fourth nationally in scoring at 83.7 points a game and had the MAC's top scorer in Tamara Bowie, who was averaging 19.7 points.
Bowie played just 15 minutes because of foul trouble and got shut out in the first half. Although the sophomore forward ended with 12 points, six of them came at the free-throw line.
It was UB's biggest victory since topping North Carolina, 95-89, in the season opener. The Tar Heels were ranked 22nd at the time, but have since fallen out of the polls.
"We came out with a lot of intensity, a lot of fire in our bellies," UB coach Cheryl Dozier said. "I challenged them because we haven't proven ourselves against any upper-echelon teams in this conference yet this year.
"This was an opportunity we needed to take advantage of. . . . This was a team we had to prove ourselves against, and I felt we were really ready to go today."
UB has won five of its past six games, including three in a row. UB is 16-6 overall and 7-4 in the MAC East Division heading into a Valentine's Day matchup at first-place Kent State.
The Golden Flashes, who last month beat the Bulls in Amherst, 68-60, own the nation's second-longest home winning streak at 40 games.
"We've proven we can play with them," Dozier said. "Now we just have to do it for 40 minutes. I wouldn't want any other team to break that home winning streak."
The Bulls' chances against the Flashes will be helped if they can duplicate any semblance of the fast start they enjoyed Saturday.
UB led, 12-0, just 4:10 into the game. Ball State had committed five turnovers, and Bowie was on the bench with two fouls.
The Cardinals didn't score their first points until the 15:31 mark, but the Bulls went on a 9-0 run from there, giving them a 21-2 advantage with 12:28 remaining in the half.
"We came out absolutely flat, and a lot of that credit goes to Buffalo," Ball State coach Brenda Oldfield said. "We're just not the type of team that if we get ourselves down and get frustrated, we can get ourselves out of it."
The Bulls took a 21-point lead after an exquisite Tara Perrier reverse layup off a pinpoint, behind-the-back pass from Sonia Ortega with 8:38 left until halftime.
But rather than get further pumped up by Perrier's slick shot, UB's intensity dropped off.
Ball State -- despite 11 turnovers to UB's one until that point -- went on a 15-1 run to cut UB's lead to seven with 1:53 left in the half. But the Bulls widened their margin to 39-29 at halftime.
The Bulls extended their lead to 13 points early in the second half, but the Cardinals continued to chip away. Behind the spunky play of guard Johna Goff, who scored a team-high 21 points off the bench, the Cardinals got within six points, 54-48, with 7:57 to play.
Bell punctuated a 9-0 run with an easy layup to gave UB its largest lead of the second half, 63-48, with 6:11 remaining.
Ortega finished with 10 points and game-highs in assists (seven) and steals (four). She also had four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Perrier had 13 points and five rebounds, while Mari McClure added 11 points, six boards and five assists.