Jesse Berry's length-of-the-court drive and dish to Majok Majok for a two-handed dunk at the buzzer lifted the Ball State men's basketball team to a 62-61 victory Wednesday over Norfolk State at Worthen Arena.
Ball State (6-6) led by 12 points midway through the second half and then trailed by five in the closing minutes. But the Cardinals' hot 3-point shooting, which carried them most of the night, came through again in the clutch in their final tuneup for Mid-American Conference play.
“We played well in a lot of spurts, and I thought we really established that we could share the ball offensively,” Ball State coach Billy Taylor said in a release. “We had really good ball movement; we played very unselfish, and that ended up being the key thing that put us over the top at the end with the drive by Jesse and the unselfish play to find Majok under the rim for the dunk.”
Ball State made 12 treys on the night with the duo of Berry and Jauwan Scaife knocking down five each and combining to shoot 10-for-15 from beyond the arc.
The Cardinals went cold for a period in the second half as Norfolk State (6-10) went on a 20-3 run to grab a 55-50 lead with four minutes to play. But Scaife and Tyler Koch hit 3s on Ball State's next two possessions, cutting the lead to 57-56.
Norfolk State pushed its advantage back to 59-56 before Ball State scored four straight points on free throws from Berry and Chris Bond to grab a 60-59 lead. Norfolk State then got four looks at the basket in the final 40 seconds before Rob Johnson was fouled with six seconds remaining. Johnson hit both free throws to put the Spartans back ahead 62-61.
Berry took the inbounds pass and raced up the court heavily defended. He managed to get into the lane and passed off to a cutting Majok, who threw down a thunderous dunk just before the buzzer sounded. The officials reviewed the play and confirmed Majok scored before time expired.
“When I caught the ball, I was really just thinking about getting it up the floor to give us a chance at a shot,” Berry said. “When I passed half court, I saw that I could get in the paint. When I got in the paint, I found Majok on the left and he finished big time.”
Berry scored a game-high 21 points, topping the 20-point mark for the fourth time this season and the third time in the past four games. Scaife, who scored 21 points in Ball State's most recent game against IUPUI, finished with 18.
Johnson led four double-figure scorers for Norfolk State with 16 points, followed by Malcolm Hawkins with 15, Pendarvis Williams with 14 and Kievyn Lila-St. Rose with 11. But the other eight Spartans who played combined for just five points.
“I liked our defense for the majority of the game,” Taylor said. “I thought we really played tough half-court defense, but then we started to trade baskets with them a little bit in the second half. We still have to understand how to put a team away when we have them down 10 or 12 points.
But I'm proud of our guys for the character they showed and fighting through some adversity. We made some big shots that helped us get that victory.”
Ball State's 12 3-pointers were the most for the Cardinals since they knocked down 14 in a game at Eastern Michigan in March 2006.
Scaife, Berry and Marcus Posley handed out four assists each for a Ball State team that had 15 assists on 21 made baskets and turned the ball over just 12 times against a long Norfolk State defense. Bond led the way on the boards with nine rebounds and Majok added eight.
The Cardinals will travel to Eastern Michigan to open MAC play on Jan. 9.