Coming off of a close loss to No. 23 Purdue, Ball State Men’s Basketball (1-1, 0-0 MAC) heads down to Charleston, South Carolina for the Charleston Classic. The Cardinals will open tournament play against another ranked opponent in No. 15 Virginia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC). 

In their last match up, the Cardinals played a strong first half against the Boilermakers, only down by one at halftime. However, consistent fouling and an offensive surge by the Boilermakers in the second half, let the game get away from the Cardinals. 

“Purdue is really good team and it was a great environment, but it’s going to be a little different here with there being no home court advantage,” senior redshirt guard Tayler Persons said. “Going into this tournament, I feel like we're ready and well equipped to compete with any team we play against. The experiences we’ve had have helped out a lot of guys, we know what we did against them and what we need to improve on.” 

One facet of the game the Cardinals struggled in was discipline. The Cardinals collected 24 personal fouls against Purdue and fouled out two players in the second half. However, the Hokies have had issues with fouling as well. Virginia Tech fouled out two players as well and collected an almost identical 25 personal fouls against Gardner-Webb. 

“We have to lock in and focus on the defense,” Persons said. “It was tough at Purdue. We had players who usually don’t foul out, foul out. You just gotta learn, play it simple, lock in on D and play without fouling. We’re definitely going to take advantage of how aggressive they play and try to get some fouls on them.” 

One player who is looking to increase his activity outside the paint is senior guard Austin Nehls. Transferring from Central Connecticut State, Nehls knocked down 206 three pointers in his time with the Blue Devils. This season, Nehls has come into the game and quickly established himself. Nehls hit back to back threes in the second half against Purdue and a knocked down a three pointer a little over minute after seeing the court for the first time against Indiana State. 

“I think being that shooter for the team is what I was brought here to do,” Nehls said. “In my career at Central Connecticut State, I hit over 200 threes which was third in the school’s history, so when I was recruited here that was the biggest thing I could bring to the team. They just told me when I’m open to shoot the ball.”

Coming into this weekend, the team is excited to be playing in the nationally broadcasted tournament. Alongside Ball State and Virginia Tech, Alabama, Northeastern, Appalachian State, Davidson, Wichita State and No. 23 Purdue will also be participating in the tournament. Persons said that head coach James Whitford has been trying for awhile now to get the team into one of these bigger early season tournaments. 

“It’s means a lot to play in this tournament,” Persons said. “Coach has been fighting for us to get into one of these tournaments and we’re finally in. We have a great opportunity ahead of us and this tournament doesn’t make or break our future, but it will certainly open up some eyes. We just have to stay consistent with ourselves, stay all together and if we come out of this with three wins and win a championship, that’d be awesome.” 

The Cardinals will open up the Charleston Classic on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. against the Hokies. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2. 

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