Ball State has not made the NCAA tournament since 2000 and sitting at just 4-4 coming into the week you might not think they are a threat to make the tournament again. This week however the nation was introduced to a 6' 2 point guard from Kokomo Indiana named Tayler Persons and the Cardinals are one of the hottest mid-majors in the country.
Persons started his freshman year at Northern Kentucky University and won the conference freshman of the year award in the 2014-2015 season. After deciding to transfer to Ball State, Persons led the team in scoring last season with 15.5 points per game. Coming into this year, Persons was looked upon as the leader of this team who was picked to finish in the top 4 of the MAC by many analysts and polls. So far into the season, Persons was doing about the same as last year, which is still very impressive, but this week things have changed and the entire nation was introduced to the Cardinals and one of the most clutch players in the country.
If you follow college basketball you probably already knew that Ball State upset the 8th/9th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Tuesday night. If you didn't see the highlights you missed the incredible shot that Persons hit with 2 seconds remaining to stun the college basketball world and beat the Irish. In my opinion this is one of the most difficult three point shots there is. Persons dribbled around for a few seconds before finally pulling up with a taller defender in his face. Persons was also off center and wasn't quite at the wing, a shot that many shooters struggle with. Not only did Persons hit that shot, he also finished with a team high 24 points to go along with 5 rebounds and a team high 3 assists.
Many people including myself thought that shot by Persons was a shot that most people hit once out of maybe 10 or 20 tries. Persons however is not most people. just 4 days after hitting the game winner to stun the Irish, Persons hit another shot that in my opinion was more difficult and had more at stake to beat the Valparaiso Crusaders, a team that came into the game at 8-1 with its only loss coming on the road against #21 Purdue. Against Notre Dame, Persons hit the shot when the game was tied and had he missed it the Cardinals still would have had a chance to beat the Irish in overtime. Against Valpo however, Ball State trailed by 2 and had Persons missed this shot which was defended better, the Cardinals would have lost the game. As you can see in the videos below, Persons tied to drive and go for a two but the Crusaders had it defended well and Persons had to hit a step back three from a few feet behind the line.
Very rarely do we see last second three pointers to win games, but it is even more unlikely that it would happen twice in the same week from the same player against a top ten opponent on the road and then against one of the top mid major programs in the country. If you don't know who Tayler Persons is yet you better remember his name because you might be hearing it a lot more come March.