It was a fast start to the season for Ball State.

Ball State played three games in six days to start the season, against solid opponents in Cleveland State, Missouri State and Lipscomb.

“I’ve said it before: I’m not a big goal guy,” head coach Brady Sallee said. “We’re just trying to win them all, but we’re just trying to do it one game at a time.”

Ball State won’t retake the court until Monday when it travels south for a tough test against Vanderbilt. Two days later it stays in the Volunteer State to play Tennessee State.

Defense was key in Ball State’s season-opening victories over Cleveland State and Missouri State. The Cardinals forced 69 turnovers in their first three games, and held their opponents to under 40 percent shooting in all three contests.

“I think you just get a true sense of who you are, playing good teams,” Sallee said. “I’ve said it before, when we set up our schedule we try to put ourselves in positions where we play teams we’re supposed to beat, we play 50-50 games and we play those games where we’re underdogs.”

Senior forward Moriah Monaco kept up her excellence from behind the arc, powering the Ball State offense with 10 triples in the first three games.

“Anybody can hit those shots,” Monaco said. “Especially if you’re in the gym like our team is and I mean, we truly are in the gym shooting just so we’re ready to hit those shots.”

Now it’s onto the heart of the non-conference schedule for Ball State, as meetings with Butler and Purdue follow the trip to Tennessee.

It will also be two weeks until the Cardinals play again at Worthen Arena. Butler comes to Muncie on Nov. 29. The Bulldogs are already showing improvement in their early season schedule after going 6-25 in 2016-2017.

The game against Vanderbilt gives Ball State an early opportunity for its first win over a power five school in two seasons. Unlike many power five matchups, the Cardinals should have a chance against the Commodores, who dropped a early season home game against Middle Tennessee State and fell on the road against Central Michigan.

Junior guard Carmen Grande has also been a spark for Ball State on both ends of the court. She recorded 27 assists and 10 steals in the first three games.

“If I’m not hitting layups, I can find people, and I can get people open,” Grande said. “[I’m] just trying to find the part of my game that can help us in the game or the situation.”

In those wins, Ball State countered its lack of height with tremendous defense that swarmed to the ball and at times, wrecked havoc on opposing offenses. All of Ball State’s first three opponents had assist-to-turnover ratios far under one. They’ve also only been outscored in a quarter once all season.

Monday’s game against Vanderbilt starts at 1 p.m. Wednesday’s game against Tennessee State has a 2 p.m. first tip.

Contact Sam Barloga with comments at