KENT, Ohio -- Ball State built a double-digit lead Saturday night, but Kent State stormed back in the second half for an 86-74 victory in the Cardinals’ first Mid-American Conference road game.
Kent State found openings on the offensive end after halftime and turned up its pressure on the defensive end. The Golden Flashes (10-5, 1-1 MAC) seized control with a 16-0 run midway through the second half at the M.A.C. Center.
Mark Alstork recorded his first career double-double for Ball State (3-10, 0-2 MAC), posting career highs with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Majok Majok added 14 points, followed by Zavier Turner with 12 – all in the second half – and Chris Bond with 10.
Kent State’s Darren Goodson scored inside and out to lead all players with 23 points, while Kris Brewer added 18, including 16 in the second half. Goodson was much of the Golden Flashes’ offense early in the game. He and Brewer formed a tandem that took control down the stretch.
“I thought Kent State played a great game,” Ball State coach James Whitford said. “I give Darren Goodson great credit. He has struggled of late, but he is a really important player for their team. He was the difference in the game tonight, no question. It was Darren Goodson on the block and Kris Brewer off that high pick-and-roll action that was hard for us at the end of the day.”
Ball State stormed out of the gate, hitting 9 of its first 11 shots and building its largest lead at 20-7 less than eight minutes into the game. Majok scored 10 of his 14 points during that stretch.
The Cardinals led by double-digits for much of the first half before the Golden Flashes rallied to cut it to 33-32 with 1:51 left. But Mark Alstork answered with a 4-point play on the other end and Bo Calhoun then scored on a putback to send Ball State to the locker room on top, 39-32.
The lead was as many as 12 in the second half after a 3-pointer from Turner with 17:13 left, but then Kent State began to find its stride. The Golden Flashes caused problems by trapping full court and extending their defense in the half court.
With Ball State leading 57-49, Kent State scored 16 straight points during a span of less than four minutes to turn its eight-point deficit into an eight-point advantage at 65-57 with 9:35 to play. From there, the Cardinals could not cut the lead to fewer than five.
Kent State shot 64.3 percent (18 for 28) in the second half and got to the free throw line 20 times. The Golden Flashes forced 18 turnovers for the game. In addition to creating takeaways, the pressure also forced the Ball State ball handlers toward mid-court and made it difficult to get the ball into Majok, who had so much success early.
“We played a good half of basketball; I was pleased with that,” Whitford said. “I felt like we wore down in the second half, and it showed defensively. Obviously, we turned the ball over some, which is to be expected when they press as much as they did. But mostly I was disappointed with our defense in the second half.”
Alstork added a game-high five assists to his stat line, while Majok grabbed seven rebounds as his streak of three straight double-doubles came to an end. Turner’s streak of 27 consecutive made free throws also ended on a first-half miss, but the nation’s top foul shooter closed the night by making his last four.
Ball State continues league play Wednesday with another road trip. The Cardinals will visit Ohio, one of last year’s MAC co-champions, for an 8 p.m. tipoff on Time Warner Cable Sports.