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at Auburn
When: 8 p.m., Friday
Radio: 1380 AM

New-look IPFW to tip off season

Mastodons take focus on defense to SEC country

– They are younger, leaner and faster than perhaps any IPFW team in recent seasons, which is why second-year men’s basketball coach Tony Jasick says the Mastodons will present a different look as they begin their 2012-13 season Friday with a road trip to the heart of SEC country in Auburn, Ala.

With defense expected to be an early-season cornerstone, IPFW shut down tiny Alma with a devastating first half en route to a 71-43 exhibition win Monday at Memorial Coliseum.

But Alma isn’t Auburn, a team that was 15-16 last year but has won two exhibition games already in preparation for the Tigers’ season-opener at home.

Auburn, led this season by 6-foot-1 senior guard Frankie Sullivan, who averaged 12.6 points last season, smashed Victory University 108-57 in the first exhibition, then days later beat Georgia Southwestern, 66-50.

Jasick is more concerned about how IPFW performs. And he saw of some of that Monday when the Mastodons went on a 22-2 first-half run to take a 38-13 halftime lead.

“I don’t know in our time here if we have come out and dominated a game defensively right from the tip the way we did (Monday) night,” said Jasick, who didn’t want to offend Alma coach Sam Hargraves. “That was an immediate feedback to what we’re doing to our defensive approach.

“What it says is even against some of the non-D-ones we’ve had in the past, we haven’t come out and approached the game the way we did and imposed our will on an opponent.”

Four seniors from last year’s 11-19 are gone, and two seniors are in their place, led by 6-4 guard Frank Gaines.

Gaines, who averaged 21.2 points last season and was named to the all-Summit League first team, had 12 points against Alma, but was 4 of 11 from the floor and 0 for 4 from three-point range.

Senior Mario Hines, the 6-8 forward, added 8 points and 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, three junior college transfers showed their worth. Six-foot-5 Luis Jacobo and 6-9 Steve Forbes had nine points each, and 6-2 Kevin Harden had eight.

“I like how we started the game,” Gaines said. “I didn’t like how we got comfortable in the second half. We’ve got to stay in attack mode the whole game. But I liked how we got out in transition with a lot of the new guys, especially with the rebounding. Everybody looked pretty good.”

While it was a first step, it was in the right direction, according to Jasick.

“I don’t know that anything from the Alma game will necessarily help us or hurt us against Auburn,” Jasick said. “What I do think what you can get from an exhibition game, with as many new guys, is we can kind of see what guys are about when the lights are on.

“I was pretty pleased that we didn’t have any selfish plays. We didn’t have anybody that played the game as if it was about them. It was about our team. So from that standpoint, I was pleased.”