CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Ball State men’s basketball team hung around for much of the night despite its worst shooting performance of the season, but Cleveland State pulled away down the stretch for a 78-55 victory Saturday at the Wolstein Center.
Cleveland State (4-3) shot 63 percent for the game, and Ball State (2-4) struggled to defend the Vikings’ backcourt duo of Trey Lewis and Bryn Forbes who combined for 38 points on 12-for-16 shooting. Lewis led all players with 23 points.
“I thought it was a good lesson for our guards,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “Those two guys can really play. Really good guards have been a problem for us. That’s an area where we were exposed tonight, and it’s something we have to answer the bell on.”
Ball State made just four of its first 19 shots in the game and trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half before picking its offense up in the closing minutes. The Cardinals hit their final five shots from the floor and pulled within seven points at the break at 39-32.
A 3-pointer from Zavier Turner on the opening possession of the second half brought the Cardinals within four points, but they could get no closer.
The Cleveland State lead hovered in single digits throughout the opening 10 minutes of the second half, and it was a 59-50 game with 8:37 to play. But the Vikings went on a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 20 and proceeded to out-score Ball State 19-5 the rest of the way.
Cleveland State double teamed Ball State big man Majok Majok all night and limited him to just five shot attempts. The senior center did manage to haul in a game-high 11 rebounds, reaching double-digit boards for the fifth straight game.
“Their pressure hurt us and it took us out of our pace,” Whitford said. “If we would have been able to play faster, I thought we would have minimized their size advantage a little bit. Majok has been very unselfish passing the ball, but we shot 5-for-17 from 3 and I thought some of those were pretty good looks. When they double team him, we have to make them pay a price.”
Ball State shot 36 percent from the floor for the game. Turner finished with nine points, including seven in a stretch of less than five minutes as the Cardinals made their run spanning the two halves. Majok scored seven on the night.
Forbes and Jon Harris each scored 15 for Cleveland State, while Anton Grady added 11 to give the Vikings four scorers in double figures.
Ball State will now return home to continue its difficult non-conference stretch with its only home game in a five-week span. The Cardinals will welcome Valparaiso to Worthen Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff Wednesday.