SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Good things came in threes for the Mastodons on Sunday night and in more ways than one.
An excellent shooting night from three-point range propelled No. 5 seed IPFW past fourth-seeded Oakland for the third time in 18 days, this time winning 91-72 and putting IPFW into tonights Summit League mens tournament semifinals at the Sioux Falls Arena, where the Mastodons will face top seed South Dakota State.
The Mastodons numbers themselves are impressive. IPFW (16-16) shot 62.5 percent from the field and made 12 three-pointers, including eight of its first nine attempts. Although IPFW had defeated Oakland twice in recent weeks, the Mastodons offensive show was largely unexpected, considering IPFW averaged 66 points a game this season and made 16 three-pointers combined in the two previous meetings.
We know how good of a team they are, Mastodons coach Tony Jasick said. I thought we came out of the gates and played well early and made a bunch of shots.
The long-distance success came early for IPFW. Forward Luis Jacobo hit four first-half threes, and midway through the first half the Mastodons were up 18 points. Oakland cut it as close as seven points but never any closer as all-conference selection Frank Gaines scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
Jacobo said the offensive key was the ability to get inside with penetration and then find an outside shooter for the three-pointer, which meant open looks for most of the first half with Oakland sagging inside. I just had the easy job of knocking down shots, Jacobo said.
IPFW was able to hold Oakland sharpshooter Travis Bader to 4-of-16 shooting, including 3 of 12 from beyond the arc, despite his team-high 18 points. Gaines was tasked with guarding Bader.
I just tried to be physical with him, Gaines said. My teammates jumped to the ball and helped me a lot coming off screens.
For the Golden Grizzlies (16-16), the slide continues for one of the conferences most successful programs. After playing in three straight conference title games, Oakland has been knocked out in the quarterfinal round each of the past two years.
We wanted to go after Gaines, Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. We got two fouls on him in the first half and it was like it didnt matter. They just played.
Now the Mastodons – who have won a school Division I-best six games in a row – look to continue what has turned into a historic run. Tonights challenge includes South Dakota States Nate Wolters, who went for a Division I season-high 53 points against IPFW on Feb. 7 in Fort Wayne. Jasick says, despite the performance of the 6-foot-4 guard, their game plan was a good one.
This going to sound crazy, but I dont think that the game plan was that flawed, Jasick said. I think he had a special night ... we just have to do a better job of containing him.