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Men vs. Eastern Kentucky
When: 2 p.m. today
Ball State at IPFW
When: 4:30 p.m. today

Mastodons set for Mid-Major Top 25 showdown

– History buys a ticket to the Gates Center this afternoon, or something like it. So right off you know this is not just any Sunday drive-and-dish for the IPFW men’s basketball team.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had two mid-major ranked teams coming to Fort Wayne,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said.

One of those would be Eastern Kentucky, an 8-4 team that’s ranked 22nd in the last Mid-Major Top 25. The other, of course, is IPFW, 10-4 and ranked 23rd after peeling off four straight wins, the latest an 86-65 dismantling of Eastern Illinois on Dec. 21. The Mastodons haven’t lost in almost a month, their last loss coming at Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 3.

In the interim, they’ve become familiar with an enlightening new term: Paint touches.

“A big stat for us is paint touches – trying to make sure the ball gets inside through Steve (Forbes) or Joe Reed, or whether it gets in the paint off the dribble,” Jasick says. “I think our team is much better playing after the ball gets in the paint. I think everything becomes easier and you get better shots.

“Obviously our post guys can score, and I also think they can rack up fouls and get to the free throw line and make them. I think that balance has been a big positive to our team thus far.”

The numbers back him up. Through 14 games, eight Mastodons are averaging better than 7.7 points per game, led by Luis Jacobo at 14.3. Six players have made at least eight 3-pointers, led by Michael Kibiloski with 30 in 72 attempts, a .417 clip. Four Mastodons (Jacobo, Kibiloski, Mo Evans and Pierre Bland) are shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the 3-point arc, and, inside, four players (Jacobo, Forbes, Reed and Bland) average between 4.8 and 5.4 rebounds.

They’ll need all of that to handle Eastern Kentucky, whose only losses are to Wisconsin, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth and Youngstown State.

“I think they’re really good,” Jasick says. “They’re very well coached. They play somewhat of a unique style on the defensive end, in terms of they really overdeny the passing lanes and put a ton of pressure on the pass, which we’ve got to be prepared for and handle it the right way.”

The right way being, not doing off the court what Eastern Kentucky does on it. Which is overplay things.

“I think there’s a fine line between overdoing it and underdoing it,” Jasick says. “You want to make sure your team is prepared and they understand kind of what they’re going to face and how the game is going to look from Eastern Kentucky’s standpoint, but on the other hand we also want to make sure that we continue to do what makes us good.

“So it’s a fine line. Hopefully we can find the right balance here in the three or four days we have to prepare.”

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, the IPFW women play Ball State at 4:30 p.m.