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IPFW wins with effort

I may not cover too many of these IPFW men’s basketball games, but it doesn’t take a season-ticket holder, a Naismith historian or even a Steve Warden to know there were some unique facets of this game between the Mastodons and Oral Roberts.

Most notably, there were 49 fouls, yet both coaches were pleading for more, even getting warned to shut up at one point by the officials.

There was a noticeable size difference between IPFW and Oral Roberts, yet the Mastodons out-rebounded the opposition 37-26. And that was without IPFW’s 6-foot-8 Oleg Kovalov, who has a broken nose.

In the end, the Mastodons won 80-77.

And while it’s easy to look at the play-by-play and think the hero was Zach Plackemeier, whose three-pointer with 49 seconds remaining put IPFW up 77-74, I’ll go with Frank Gaines.

With a couple of the Mastodons’ big men – Trey McCorkle and Michael Kibiloski – fouled out, it was Gaines who stepped it up.

He scored all 19 of his points in the second half, and he had four blocks, including one on Oral Roberts’ leading scorer, Damen Bell-Holter, right after the Plackemeier three-pointer.

Bell-Holter had 22 points.

Kudos also to Jeremy Mixon, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half.

The Mastodons would have been in quite a bit of trouble without Gaines and Mixon stepping up, especially after McCorkle was on the bench for all but four minutes in the second half. He had 13 first-half points and finished with 15 and nine rebounds.

Too bad that when he fouled out, it was because official Jeff Albright tagged the wrong player; it wasn’t No. 44, it was No. 4, Gaines, with the foul beneath the basket.

Everyone knew it.

The Mastodons remain three games back of Oakland for first place in the Summit League. But just as importantly, they feel like they got their groove back with this game over the Summit League’s most recognizable team.

"The best way to describe this game is it was about effort," IPFW coach Dane Fife said. "It was about our guys making an absolutely committed effort and I thought we did that for 40 minutes. We had some guys, Mixon and Gaines, step up and make some huge plays for us down the stretch, some big baskets. ... We had John (Peckinpaugh) guarding an all-league center.

"I think tonight’s win is about effort. I’m proud of our guys. But from here forward, we have to have effort every night because every game counts."