MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men’s basketball team rode a strong defensive effort and a dominating rebounding performance to a 73-53 victory Tuesday over Taylor at Worthen Arena.
The Cardinals (1-1) were balanced on offense in their home opener, earning first-year head coach James Whitford his first career victory.
Freshman point guard Zavier Turner was the only Ball State player in double figures with 17 points, but 10 different Cardinals scored in the game. Senior center Majok Majok finished with 16 rebounds, one shy of his career high, as Ball State piled up a 53-25 advantage on the boards.
Ball State did not shoot the ball as well as it did in Saturday’s season opener at Indiana State, connecting on 41 percent for the game, but its defense frustrated the Taylor shooters. The Trojans, which entered the game 2-1 on the year, shot 38 percent for the night, which was 13 points lower than their average. Taylor also hit just two of its 13 attempts from 3-point range.
“They have two guys who can really shoot it, and with about four or five minutes to go in the game they had just two or three attempts from beyond the arc,” Whitford said. “We really did a great job chasing them off the line. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but those are the things you can’t control on any given night. The fact that we were as detailed as we were on their shooters, I thought that was a step forward.”
Two defensive plays by Ball State capped a 9-0 run to end the first half that put the Cardinals in complete control heading to the locker room. Turner and Payne turned steals into a lay-up and a dunk on back-to-back possessions to give the Cardinals a 37-20 lead at the break.
Though Ball State’s shooting cooled in the second half, the Cardinals extended their lead to as many as 23 points in the closing minutes.
Ball State continued to move the ball better Tuesday, recording 17 assists on 25 made baskets. Twelve of those assists came from the freshman class, led by Quinten Payne with five and Turner with four. Mark Alstork also had a pair of assists to go along with eight points.
“I thought Quinten and Mark both took a step in the right direction tonight,” Whitford said. “It was really encouraging for me that I trusted them on the floor for as long as I did. Quinten had five assists and one turnover … Mark let the offense come to him more than he ever has. And those two guys were really responsible for a lot of our defensive success.”
A total of 13 players saw time on the floor for Ball State, including three -- center Mading Thok and guards Kindon Crowder and Kaleb Mallory -- who played for the first time. Thok scored his first collegiate points, while Crowder had an assist and a blocked shot on a breakaway lay-up.
Turner’s performance was his second straight with 17 points and three 3-pointers. The product of Pike High School in Indianapolis, is now 6 for 9 from beyond the arc in his first two college games. Jesse Berry was next for the Cardinals with nine points, while Chris Bond joined Alstork with eight.
Kyle Stidom led Taylor with 14 points and six rebounds, while Ben Raichel and Jesse Coffey added eight points each for the Trojans.
Tuesday’s game was the first of three straight at home for Ball State, which returns to action Monday at 7 p.m. against Southeast Missouri. The Cardinals will then close the homestand Nov. 23 against Butler.