Hot out of the gate against UIndy on Friday, junior redshirt forward Tahjai Teague lead Ball State Basketball (1-0, 0-0 MAC) to a 86-69 win over Indiana State (0-1, 0-0 MVC), knocking down 21 points along the way.
Not only did Teague have a strong performance on offense, but shined on defense as well. The forward recorded five defensive rebounds, two steals and one block on the night.
“Tahjai’s performance stood out too me,” head coach James Whitford said. “As good as he was on offense, it was one of the most dominate defensive performances he’s had. What he did defensively on Jordan Barnes and Tyreke Key was exceptional. One of the best individual defensive performances i’ve seen in a long time.”
After Teague registered 14 of his 20 points in the first quarter against the Greyhounds, he carried that momentum into the second half tonight scoring 11 points in the second half almost matching the 10 he scored in the first half. Teague said that senior redshirt guard Tayler Persons was key a player into his performance tonight.
“He [Persons] pushes the ball fast and gets it to the box easy,” Teague said. “Once he gets in there, they just crowd him, he jumps off and you just gotta finish the layup.”
Persons had a strong season debut after sitting out Friday’s game due to violation of team rules. The guard was second in scoring with 16 points and went three for three at the line. Alongside Persons and Teague, junior redshirt guard KJ Walton and sophomore redshirt forward Brachen Hazen broke double figures both with 15 points.
“You watch the Warriors play or anyone good like that, they have four or five guys who can get whatever any given night,” Persons said. “That’s how we have to be. We have to lock in on defense and I feel like we did that. We let first team All Missouri Valley player Jordan Barnes go 6 for 19 at field goal range and that’s a tough matchup. We couldn’t hit nothing in the first half and we relayed on our defense. That’s how we have to be.”
A slow starting offense in the first half saw the Cardinals register a 25 three point percentage compared to the Sycamores 50 percent. A strong defensive showing, which saw Ball State force 12 turnovers, allowed the Cardinals to end the half tied at 32. Going into the second half, the Cardinals gained some ground on offense putting 54 points up on the scoreboard and holding a lead as large as 18 points.
“I thought in the first half our effort and attitude was in the right spot, but we were rushed and we were playing nervous,” Whitford said. “When we couldn’t find a pass our response was to put our head down and just drive it. That was biggest difference for us. In second half, Tayler had five assists and no turnovers, Josh had no turnovers. When your point guards are able to have seven assists in a half and no turnovers, you are able to score 54 points.”
With the first game of the regular season in the books, the Cardinals face the first of two ranked opponents of the early season in No. 24 Purdue. The Boilermakers routed Fairfield, 90-57, in their season opener the same night.
“I haven’t watched them this year, but I know their program really well and I think they’re hard to play against,” Whitford said. “What stands out to me when I think of Purdue is their defensive toughness. The way they pressure the ball and their blue collar identity to work a man to man defensive team that’s hard to play against. It will be a great challenge for us. I think it should be a fun game, our guys will be really excited and I think we’ll be ready.”
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