Dick Carlson | Inertia IPFW’s Mo Evans dishes off between Omaha defenders Zach Jackson, left, and Mitch Hahn during the Summit League men’s basketball tournament Sunday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Sunday, March 05, 2017 9:17 pm
IPFW falls in Summit League tourney opener
MATT ZIMMER | For The Journal Gazette
The matchup between No. 3 seed IPFW and No. 6 Omaha was the last game of the two-day quarterfinal round of the Summit League men’s basketball tournament, and arguably the most intriguing.
It was a battle between the league’s two highest scoring teams, and the Mastodons seem to be the team everyone around the Summit League tries to get a handle on.
Picked to win the league in the preseason poll and coming off a regular season conference crown last season, the question seems to come up: Are the Mastodons an NCAA tournament-worthy team that’s underachieved all year, or were they just overrated?
It might have been the latter as the Mavericks advanced to Monday’s semifinals with an entertaining 84-80 win Sunday over the Mastodons at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
“Clearly disappointed with the outcome tonight,” IPFW coach Jon Coffman said. “Our guys came ready to play, they were prepared and they showed great resilience early when we found ourselves down. We take our hats off to Omaha – they showed their own resilience. It was a great college basketball game tonight. We got some great looks, the balls just didn’t fall.”
Omaha (17-13) rallied for the win after trailing 62-51 with 12:57 remaining.
But IPFW (19-12) had plenty of chances late.
After a Tre’Shawn Thurman dunk gave the Mavs an 82-80 lead with 40 seconds to go John Konchar got a wide open look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key but missed, and after Marcus Tyus hit 1 of 2 from the free-throw. The Mastodons got two more looks to tie but missed both, leaving the Mastodons waiting for another postseason invitation.
Konchar had 25 points to lead the Mastodons, while Kason Harrell had 17 and Brent Calhoun 11 points and 10 boards.
Mo Evans had just five points in 22 minutes as he was in foul trouble, which forced Konchar to play point guard for much of the game. That limited the league’s top rebounder to just four boards, but he wasn’t uncomfortable at the point.
“We’ve been practicing it more lately,” Konchar said. “I just tried getting more open shots for everyone. I think (the lack of rebounds) was just positioning on the floor.”
Thurman had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Mavs (17-13), with Tra-Deon Hollins finishing with 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Tyus had 14 points and five assists.
“My hat’s off to those guys,” said Thurman. “They give us a hard game every time we play them. Tonight, we were just the tougher team I guess.”
The Mastodons started slowly, and Omaha went up by as much as 10 in the early stages of the first half. All it took to turn things around was hot shooting, though, and IPFW provided it.
Using Calhoun inside and Konchar outside the Mastodons steadily chipped away and reversed the trend. That pair each went 5 for 7 from the floor in the first half, with Konchar hitting three of his four tries from outside as IPFW built a 42-33 edge at the break.
Fort Wayne was solid defensively in the half as well, holding Omaha to 34 percent shooting. But IPFW’s nine turnovers hurt, as Omaha converted them into 12 points.
Coffman said the season was not a disappointing one.
“A lot of coaches if you say do you want 19 wins I’d bet 85 percent of mid-major coaches would raise their hands and say ‘I’ll take it’,” Coffman said. “People ask if we’re disappointed in the season, those are people that aren’t in our locker room. They don’t have a good perspective of what we do. I judge success by if our guys are buying in to what we do and how they grow as student-athletes. This group believed every day."