KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- The Ball State men’s basketball team dropped a physical Mid-American Conference contest on the road Sunday at Western Michigan, 62-53.
The Cardinals (4-13, 1-5 MAC) were ultimately undone by 30 percent shooting and 21 turnovers in a game that was within five points in the closing minutes. Western Michigan (11-7, 4-2 MAC) shot only 36.7 percent but was able to take control with an early second-half run.
“I thought that was the hardest playing game from both teams that we have been a part of,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “Neither team had an easy time scoring. I thought both teams competed and were exceptional defensively. There aren’t going to be many teams that come up here and win, and I thought we had a chance to do that.”
Shayne Whittington led the Broncos with 21 points and 15 rebounds while the league’s top scorer David Brown added 17 points, including 13 after the break.
Ball State led 26-25 at halftime, but Western Michigan opened the second half on a 17-5 run to take a 42-31 lead with 12 minutes to play. The Cardinals struggled from the field over those opening eight minutes, connecting on just one field goal.
The lead stretched to as many as 13, but Ball State clawed its way back. The Cardinals began to get the ball inside to Majok with dribble penetration and used a 7-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to 50-45.
Ball State then had the ball again, threatening to close the gap even more, when point guard Zavier Turner was knocked down on a trap near midcourt and Whittington picked up the loose ball and ran in for a dunk.
The lead again sprang to 11, but Ball State got it back to five once more and had its last best chance trailing 58-53 with 2:48 to play. The Cardinals got three looks at the basket on that possession, but none of them fell and Western Michigan went on to ice the game at the free throw line.
“I thought it was a really hard fought game,” Whitford said. “It’s painful because we were right there to win the game, but we played really hard. I love the way our team stuck together and fought down to the end. I was really proud of our effort.”
The teams combined for 25 fouls in the second half. Western Michigan was in the double bonus less than 10 minutes into the second half, and Ball State got there, as well.
Turner finished with 11 points for the Cardinals, while Jesse Berry added nine.
Ball State, coming off a strong shooting performance in Wednesday’s win over Buffalo, especially struggled beyond the arc, making just 5 of 23 from 3-point range. Still, the Cardinals’ defensive effort kept them in the game until the final minute.
Western Michigan held a 36-34 lead on the glass, becoming the first team in nine games and the first MAC team this season to outrebound Ball State.The Cardinals will be on the road again Wednesday, traveling to Akron for a 7 p.m. tipoff in the second meeting between the teams this season. The MAC East Division-leading Zips won that game by a 72-68 margin in the league opener in Muncie.