CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Ball State men’s basketball team lost 66-58 Saturday afternoon at Southern Illinois in its final game before a nine-day holiday break.
Freshman point guard Zavier Turner led the Cardinals (2-7) with 15 points, while Chris Bond and Mark Alstork added 10 each. Jalen Pendleton led all scorers with 21 points for the Salukis (3-8), and Desmar Jackson scored 19.
The game was tied 55-55 with five minutes to play, but Southern Illinois held Ball State without a field goal the rest of the way and ended the game on an 11-3 run.
“They really started to extend their zone (at the end), and that was a tough stretch for us,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “It was hard for Zavier to get the ball over their length and move the ball from side to side. We settled for too many 3’s and obviously they didn’t go in. You make one or two of those and they probably come out of the zone.”
Ball State missed seven 3-pointers in the decisive moments over the final five minutes and finished the second half 1 for 14 from beyond the arc. That came on the heels of a first half that featured the Cardinals’ best shooting of the season against both man and zone defense.
The Cardinals connected on 10 of their first 11 attempts from the floor and went on to shoot better than 68 percent for the first half, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Still, they trailed 38-37 at the break, in large part because of 12 turnovers. They finished with 21 turnovers for the game.
“The two things that really hurt us were the turnovers and our lack of execution against the zone down the stretch,” Whitford said.
Southern Illinois was able to slice into the lane in the first half for 28 paint points, but Ball State adjusted in the second half to stay in the game despite losing its shooting touch. Down the stretch, though, Pendleton was able to take the game over offensively for Southern Illinois. He scored 15 of his team’s final 20 points, including 12 straight at one point.
Ball State freshmen again combined for more than half of Ball State’s points (31 of 58). In addition to Turner’s 15 and Alstork’s 10, Franko House added six points to go along with seven rebounds. Senior center Majok Majok finished with eight points and a game-high eight boards.
Ball State is now off until Dec. 30 when the Cardinals will complete their three-game road stretch at James Madison. They will then return home for the first time in a month Jan. 3 against Oakland City before Mid-American Conference play begins.
“It’s hard to recognize this in a loss, but I liked our effort,” Whitford said.” We’re learning to play harder. We’re learning to practice better. In my opinion, from Sept. 29 to Dec. 21 we’ve actually come a long way. The quest for our team now is to get our minds fresh and come back as the hungriest team in the world, consumed by progress and consumed by getting better.”