MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men’s basketball dropped a 69-50 contest to the visiting Valparaiso Crusaders Wednesday night at Worthen Arena.
Freshman guard Mark Alstork led the Cardinals with a career-high 11 points, while Jesse Berry added 10. Redshirt freshman Mading Thok grabbed a career-best six rebounds in his first extensive action off the bench, while Tyler Koch matched him with six boards to lead Ball State.
The Cardinals struggled from the floor and fell to 2-5 with the loss, while the Crusaders improved to 6-4 on the year.
“You’re going to have some nights (individually) where you’re 4 for 4, and you’re going to have some nights where you’re 0 for 4,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “But there are other things about competing for 40 minutes, being able to execute on offense, being able to do the things we’re trying to do, that we didn’t do tonight. And that part I was really disappointed in. We have to get better.”
Early foul trouble limited senior center Majok Majok, who managed five points and five rebounds. Thok, who Whitford credited with working hard and getting better in practice, played 10 minutes for the Cardinals and also registered a block, an assist and two points.
The Cardinals fell behind by 11 points midway through the first half, trailing 17-6 at the 9:31 mark. From that point, Ball State mounted a 13-2 run to take the lead, 20-19, just more than five minutes before halftime. The Crusaders then finished the half with 12 unanswered points to take a 31-20 lead into the break. Valparaiso pushed its lead to as many as 21 points in the second half.
“The biggest thing for us is transition; when we had our run that’s what it was,” Whitford said. “We’re not a great 3-point shooting team; that’s no secret. Especially against a team that’s as big as Valparaiso, they’re able to put a ton of guys in the paint. The more we can get them moving up and down, the better we’re going to be.
“Every time we’ve made a run against a team, it comes that way, and that’s what we have to get better at doing more often.”
The Crusaders shot 48.2 percent on the night (27 of 56), still below their season average, while the Cardinals struggled through their worst shooting performance of the young season at 26.9 percent (14 of 52). Valparaiso won the battle of the boards, 44-37, and out-scored Ball State in the paint, 40-18.
LaVonte Dority led Valparaiso with a game-high 16 points, while Jubril Adekoya scored 12 points to go with a game-high eight boards. Moussa Gueye patrolled the paint with three of Valparaiso’s five blocks.
Ball State will now take a break for final exams. The Cardinals will then continue a challenging stretch of games Dec. 17 in Milwaukee, Wis., against the Marquette Golden Eagles of the Big East.