FORT WAYNE – In the end, the one that got away came crawling back. And history came strutting with it.
The IPFW men’s basketball team squandered an 18-point lead and then some Thursday night at the Gates Center, then rode defense and rebounding to reel it back in a feast-famine-feast 75-69 Summit League victory over South Dakota.
It was the 19th win of the season for the Mastodons (19-8, 7-3 Summit League), officially making them the winningest team in the program’s Division I history. And if the Mastodons viewed that only as one more step in a process, it was a fairly significant step, if only for how it happened.
IPFW, after all, led 30-12 over the listless Coyotes with five minutes to play in the first half, only to see the not-at-all listless Coyotes storm out of the locker room to score 18 of the first 24 points of the second half and take a 40-38 lead, their first of the night, with 12:54 to play.
South Dakota (9-15, 3-6) led four more times after that, until back-to-back Mo Evans 3s snapped a 48-point tie. It was the watershed moment in a 15-3 IPFW run that ripped the lead back for good and was instigated primarily on the glass and at the defensive end, where this one was decided on a night when the Mastodons shot just 37.9 percent.
All through the week we’ve taken a lot of pride in our defense, especially since we lost the last two games because of defense, said Luis Jacobo, who scored 15 points including a bring-down-the-house transition dunk during the Mastodons’ late run. So we all knew as a team that was something we needed to do to be successful.
Evans (17 points) led IPFW, which also got a huge game inside from Steve Forbes, who finished with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) that was key to the Mastodons 41-32 dominance of the glass. The Mastodons raked in 17 offensive rebounds and, in one key sequence, grabbed three straight after missed free throws to turn a 66-59 lead into a 69-59 advantage with 1:05 to play.
Yeah, we kind of got smoked on the glass this last weekend, and that’s not who we are, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. I thought there were a ton of what we call winning effort’ plays tonight, and most of them were at the free-throw line.
Every day in practice this week, they’ve been telling us to finish the play, finish strong, and that’s what we did tonight, Evans said.
The Mastodons dropped three 3-pointers in the first 5:30 to jet out to an 11-4 lead, as South Dakota tattooed the stat sheet with 12 misses on its first 17 shots to fall behind 30-12. The Coyotes finished 7 of 24 for the half.
We didn’t get any early stops at all in the second half, especially at the start I think they scored on their first eight possessions, Jasick said. (But) we finally got some shots, and I think that Mo made a couple of big baskets to give us a bit of momentum. Luis’ finish kind of gave us a little energy as well.
So credit to our guys for getting some stops and making some big plays on the offensive end as well.