MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men’s basketball team led Butler by 11 points early in the second half Saturday, but the Bulldogs rallied to escape with a 59-58 win.
A potential game-winning layup from Ball State’s Zavier Turner in the closing seconds hit the front of the rim and the remaining time ticked off the clock.
Senior center Majok Majok led all players with 15 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double, and Chris Bond added 14 points for Ball State (2-2) in front of 6,015 fans at Worthen Arena.
Turnovers derailed the Cardinals’ chances of defeating their in-state rival in the 105th meeting between the teams and the first with Butler (4-0) as a member of the Big East. Ball State’s 17 turnovers led to 23 points, and three of those plays came during a crucial Butler run in the second half.
After a pair of Elijah Brown free throws cut Ball State’s lead to 42-33, the Cardinals turned the ball over on three straight possessions. Butler turned all three of those steals into points in transition and then tacked on a 3-pointer from Alex Barlow to cap an 11-0 run and tie the game at 42 with 11 minutes left.
“They’re a good team,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “They’re very good on defense. They challenged us on that end, and it was our lack of execution on offense in the second half that I thought, at the end of the day, put them in position to win the game.”
Ball State briefly re-gained the lead on a basket from Majok, but the Bulldogs answered with a 3-pointer from Brown and never trailed again. Butler led by as many as six points, but Ball State didn’t go away. A 3-pointer from Jesse Berry brought the Cardinals within three at the 3:22 mark, and a trey from Mark Alstork cut the lead to 59-58 with 1:20 left.
Alstork’s 3 proved to be the final basket of the game. Butler’s Khyle Marshall missed a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Cardinals a look at the win, but Turner’s driving attempt wouldn’t fall.
Despite the loss, Ball State turned in its best defensive performance of the young season in limiting Butler to just 35.5 percent shooting for the game.
The Cardinals held Butler’s leading scorer Kellen Dunham to eight points on 2-of-13 shooting, but four other Bulldogs scored in double figures. Marshall led Butler with 14 points, while Kameron Woods scored 12 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Brown finished with 13 points, all in the second half, and Barlow added 10.
“Our defense was great,” Whitford said. “It’s the best we’ve defended so far. I thought we did a great job on Kellen Dunham, and I’m proud of our team for how hard we fought. Our will to compete, I think, really stands out.”
Turner scored eight points for Ball State, all in the first half, and hit a 3-pointer just before halftime to cap an 8-1 run and send the Cardinals to the locker room up 30-23. They then extended their lead to 42-31 just more than six minutes into the second half before Butler started its comeback.
“What I told them in the locker room was we were inches away from winning this game, and had we done that, all wouldn’t be great. We lost a tough game, and all is not lost. We’re a good team that’s getting better, and our job is to stay on that path and keep moving in that direction.”After three straight at home, Ball State will now go on the road for a pair of contests during Thanksgiving week. The Cardinals will play Wednesday at Utah and then travel back East to play Saturday at Cleveland State before returning to Muncie to host Valparaiso on Dec. 4.