FORT WAYNE – The shooting eye was blind this time, or at least tad near-sighted. So the IPFW Mastodons did the logical thing.
They moved a tad closer to that little orange rim.
The basketball went inside Saturday night, the basketball went up from a foot or two feet or sometimes no feet at all – and down went South Dakota State 82-75. It was two wins in two Summit League games in 48 hours, and it proved the Mastodons (14-5, 2-0) were nothing if not adaptable.
The place where they usually feast – the 3-point line – was closed for business, as the Mastodons bricked 21 of 29 attempts from there. So they punched it down low and lived around the glass, outscoring the Jackrabbits 42-16 in the paint and 12-4 on second chances, while outrebounding them 12-4 on the offensive end.
Luis Jacobo led four double-figure scorers with 24 for IPFW, but 6-foot-9 post man Steve Forbes was just as instrumental, scoring 16 and taking six rebounds despite playing just 16 minutes because of foul trouble.
Obviously, Steve was pretty good, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. But I also thought we did a good job of getting paint touches. I think in order for us to be good, that’s where we need to play – because tonight, we didn’t shoot the ball as well as we have in the past from the perimeter, and thankfully we had enough basketball sense to go and get the ball inside and play in there.
Fittingly, it was an in-there play that finally disposed of the Jackrabbits (9-8, 1-1).
A 9-0 run for IPFW across the middle of the second half, which coincided with a crippling six-minute drought for South Dakota State in which the Jackrabbits didn’t make a field goal, turned a lead-swapping contest into a 64-56 IPFW lead with 8:35 to play. But the Mastodons still had to hang on grimly from there.
Forbes finally got the kill shot with 1:18 to play, burrowing inside for the bucket and the foul, then cashed the free throw to turn a 74-70 game into a 77-70 game and essentially end it.
I feel like (the inside game) is a point of emphasis every day, because I feel like we’re better when we go inside-out, Forbes said. Not just me, but Joe Reed, Luis, anybody that gets into the paint. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a post player, but it just opens up the outside, which is really good for us.
Also good, again, was the IPFW bench, which outscored South Dakota State’s 24-9. It enabled the Mastodons to overcome 10 3s and a 19-of-23 showing at the free-throw line for the Jackrabbits, who were led by Brayden Carlson with 24 points and Jordan Dykstra with 18.
I’m not being sarcastic, but I literally have no idea who our bench is, Jasick said. And what I mean by that is, we’re going to play eight or nine guys, we’re going to play eight or nine guys about the same minutes, and we expect, and they expect, whoever they are, to come in and make positive contributions.
As they did Thursday night, the Mastodons started fast and hung tight to reach halftime with a 44-42 lead. After South Dakota State hit its first two shots to go up 5-0, the Jackrabbits made just one field across the next 8:34, and the Mastodons went on a 17-4 run to gain their biggest lead of the half, 17-9 at the 13:04 mark.
It’s definitely a confidence builder, Jacobo said of the 2-0 conference start. But it doesn’t really matter because if we lose all our other games this one doesn’t matter. It’s good that we’re having confidence – we’re trying to build a snowball effect you know and get this thing rolling – but like I said, it’s just one more game.