Coming off of a 46 point win over Tiffin on Tuesday, Ball State Men's Basketball (4-3, 0-0 MAC) will face a hot IUPUI (5-2, 0-0 Horizon) squad on Saturday in Indianapolis.
In the Cardinals finish against Tiffin, the team proved to be unselfish with its play racking up 22 assists in the game. The consistent passing play amounted to a season high in that category as well.
"We really shared the ball and I was proud of our team," head coach James Whitford said. "With 22 assists, we talked about being really unselfish in the game and I thought that showed."
One player who has not only been setting up scoring opportunities, but has been putting them in as well is redshirt senior guard Tayler Persons. Persons led in points (20) and assists (six) on Tuesday having that being the third time this season he has led in both facets of the game.
"He's [Persons] has really matured as a player and a leader," Whitford said. "He had a great game both in terms of running the offense the right way, taking what comes to him and being aggressive. I thought he set the tone of defense for us too."
For Persons, he said that the pace of the game is what sets the team apart for its opponents. The Cardinals scored 19 points off of fast breaks and would go on a scoring run of 31 points late in the game.
"We just got to keeping playing fast," Persons said. "We're at our best when we push the ball. Whatever team's going to take away our pace, we feel like we can really hurt them on offense. We just have to keeping getting fast inbounds, getting guys in space, which open up our offense."
Heading into this weekend's matchup, ESPN has predicted this game will be extremely close with the Jaguars holding a slim 51.9 percent chance to win. While the Cardinals have played some of the best in the nation this season, this is the closest margin to win the team has seen all season.
"We've obviously played some top 20 teams, but I think IUPUI is a really good team," Whitford said. "I told my team they have really good players. Tough guards in the back court, two big, experienced seniors and they're very well coached. They know how to compete."
The Jaguars hold two notable wins this season. The first coming against Boston College in the Fort Meyers Tip-Off, 76-69. That loss remains the Golden Eagles only loss of the early season. The second was on Wednesday against Bradley, 85-73. The Braves were semifinalists in the Missouri Valley Championship last season before falling to eventual champion and Final Four contender, Loyola Chicago. Redshirt junior guard Camron Justice, a first year transfer from Vanderbilt, leads the team on offense averaging 20 points per game and knocking down a career high 29 points versus Boston College.
While the Jaguars prove to have an impressive resume early in the season, the team is going into this game like any other matchup this season. Persons said that he does not view any game less challenging than the one before.
"I believe every game is challenging to be honest," Persons said. "We're playing them at home, it's hard to get a road win in college basketball and it's going to be a tough game for us, but we've had a tough schedule. We have to give the respect to IUPUI and give them the best shot we have to offer."