TOLEDO, Ohio -- Chris Bond scored a career-high 22 points and surpassed 1,000 for his career in an 85-74 loss for a shorthanded Ball State men’s basketball team Sunday night at Toledo.
The Cardinals played without starting center Majok Majok and reserve guard Kindon Crowder because of ankle sprains but stuck with the best the Mid-American Conference has to offer into the final minutes at Savage Arena.
Bond scored 16 of his points in the second half, and the senior from Gary, Ind., logged a career-high for the second straight game. Jesse Berry finished with 17 points, including 14 in the first half, and Mading Thok added a career-high 12 off the bench for Ball State (4-21, 1-13 MAC).
Toledo (23-4, 11-3 MAC) placed five scorers in double figures, led by Julius Brown with 20 points. Brown also dished out seven assists for a Rockets team that started strong and finished strong on the offensive end on the way to 56.1 percent shooting for the game.
Ball State erased an 11-point halftime deficit to tie the score twice in the second half. Berry’s only basket after the break – his fifth 3-pointer of the night – tied it up for the last time at 60-60 with 8:42 to play. The Rockets grabbed the lead back but could not pull away.
Bond found Thok inside for a dunk and the Cardinals trailed just 70-67 with less than four minutes to play. But Brown hit two free throws on the other end and Toledo outscored Ball State by a 15-7 margin down the stretch.
“I was proud of our effort,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “I thought we really competed hard. It was a three-point game at the final media timeout, and we had just missed three free throws out of our last five. We were in position to win the game.
“We didn’t defend well in the first six minutes, and we didn’t defend well in the last four minutes.”
The Rockets connected on 60 percent of their shots (15 for 25) after halftime to stave off the Cardinals’ run. Nathan Boothe and Justin Drummond each scored 17 points for Toledo, while J.D. Weatherspoon added 14 and Rian Pearson had 13.
It was the second time this season Ball State posed a serious threat to Toledo, an NCAA Tournament at-large contender with an RPI of 30. The Rockets beat the Cardinals 80-73 in Muncie earlier this month in a game that was within one possession in the final minute.
Ball State did it Sunday with effort, diving for loose balls and winning the hustle stats categories. The Cardinals held a 35-30 rebounding advantage, including 17-9 on the offensive glass, against the top rebounding team in the MAC. They scored 19 second-chance points to seven for Toledo.
Bond came into the game needing 19 points to reach 1,000 and achieved the milestone on a lay-in late in the game. He became the second Ball State player to join the 1,000-point club this season, joining Berry, and the 28th in the history of the Cardinals program.
“When Chris plays well, that’s usually a sign our team had a good game,” Whitford said. “He’s a guy who finishes a lot of good plays for us. I’m excited for him to score his 1,000th point, and I’m really proud of all he has accomplished both on the court and away from it.”
Berry, Ball State’s all-time 3-point leader, was the offensive catalyst early. He knocked down four treys in the first half, the last of which trimmed Toledo’s lead to 33-31. But the Rockets ran off the final eight points of the half to push the lead to 11 before the Cardinals’ second-half comeback.
Thok, Ball State’s 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman center scored eight of his 12 points after the break. Thok saw a career-high 18 minutes of action with Majok ailing. He shot 6 for 8 from the floor and also added five rebounds.
Ball State returns to Worthen Arena this week for its final two home games of the season. The Cardinals will host Western Michigan, the other MAC West Division co-leader with Toledo, Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Central Michigan Saturday at 2 p.m.