The Ball State Cardinals wrapped up a trip to Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday afternoon with a big win against Appalachian State, but that win was not the most important thing they left the tournament with.
In a Charleston Classic field that sported one of the most impressive brackets of all of the non-conference tournaments across the country this week, the Ball State basketball team got the chance to gain extremely valuable experience while playing a few of the best teams in the country.
The team started off their impressive streak of games against the 16th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies on Thursday morning. In a game that laid out a script that was nearly identical to their previous game against Purdue, the Cards got out in front early before falling behind by double digits midway into the second half. They eventually found a way to pull to within single digits, losing 73-64.
Tayler Persons proved once again that he knows how to perform when he faces top competition, putting up 21 points on 7-13 shooting while chipping in 5 assists and 4 boards.
Kyle Mallers continued his improved shooting from beyond the arc, drilling 5 threes en route to 19 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
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By losing game one of the tournament, Ball State got the privilege of playing the Alabama Crimson Tide the following day. Alabama, a team that lost in the Round of 32 to the eventual National Champion Villanova Wildcats, returned 4 of their 5 starters this season including 10 letterwinners.
The final score of the game was 79-61, but Friday’s game was a tale of two halves. The first half saw the Cardinals get outscored by 13 points with the team shooting just 28% from the field including 0-7 from three-point range. They performed much better in the second half, only being outscored 45-40 while shooting an impressive 62.5% from the field.
The scoring was much more dispersed in this one, with Persons, Mallers, Trey Moses, and KJ Walton all hitting double figures. The big problem for BSU was the turnovers, tallying 15 to only 11 assists, mostly due to the size and length from the Crimson Tide.
The weekend ended on a high note, topping Appalachian State by a score of 94-86 in overtime.
Finally facing a team that resembles the competition that Ball State will play in the MAC conference season, the offense looked much more free flowing and the team looked more like something we should be accustomed to seeing as the season moves on.
The star performers included Persons (of course) who went off for 29 points and 7 assists, Walton with 22 points and 6 boards, and Brachen Hazen with 7 points and a team high 9 rebounds.
While the team left the tournament with a 1-2 record, the trip was far from a disappointment. They were able to prove to themselves that they can compete with some of the best teams in the nation. That experience will be invaluable by the time March comes around when the team will be competing against the MAC with a NCAA Tournament bid on the line.
The Cardinals now get a break over Thanksgiving to rest their legs before they take the floor back at home for a contest with the Evansville Aces on Saturday at 2:00 eastern time.