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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Guard Kason Harrell, left, and his Mastodons teammates will face a pair of Mid-American Conference teams coming up at Akron and Miami.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017 1:00 am

IPFW begins MAC attack

Mastodons hit the road to play Akron, Miami

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

IPFW at Akron

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: James A. Rhodes Arena, Akron

Radio: ESPN 1380 AM/100.9 FM

IPFW's nonconference schedule is full of variety, including high-major contests, lower-division and NAIA opponents interspersed with fellow mid-major institutions.

Next up for the Mastodons (6-3) is back-to-back Mid-American Conference opponents today at Akron and Saturday at Miami (Ohio).

“The MAC is a great conference,” junior guard Kason Harrell said. “I think it'll help us continue to get ready for our conference. Every team in the MAC is tough and aggressive and we need to be exposed to that to get ready for our conference, which is the exact same way. It'll be good for us.”

The Zips (3-2) are led by Daniel Utomi (22 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Malcolm Duvivier (11 points) and have wins over Cleveland State, UT Martin and UT Chattanooga. They've lost at Dayton and Marshall.

“(Akron) has two very good scorers, two guys who can really shoot the ball,” Harrell said. “They're really athletic, they really like to smash the glass, they love to drive the basketball every single play they get. They're really good in transition. So transition defense, keeping the ball in front of us and defending is going to be the key to winning this game.”

For Harrell, the game at Akron presents a rare opportunity for his Pittsburgh-based supporters to see him play.

“I have a lot of people back home who don't really get to see me play in person,” he said. “For them to have the chance to come and see me, it's really special. At the same time, I have to stay focused on the game, so I can't put much thought into it.

“I have a great group of people back home who really support me. They text me after every game, win or lose, whether I have 15 points or five points. I'm just really blessed to have those people in my life. They'll see the jumps I've made, but they'll continue to push me to get better.”

Bryson Scott leads the Mastodons – and is 11th in the country – with 23.1 points per game; John Konchar averages 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds; and Harrell's 12.6 points is third on the team.

While Harrell, a relatively quiet individual, was a starter for the Mastodons last year, his leadership role was nonexistent during his breakout season.

This year, with eight newcomers, he's had to expand and make a conscious effort to become a leader on the court.

“It's been an adjustment,” he said. “Even though I started last year, I took a back seat to Mo, (Brent Calhoun), John and Bryson. This year, I have to be more vocal, be more of a leader and set more of an example. It was a huge adjustment, but I feel like I've been doing pretty good so far.”

Even with all the improvements he's made in the past two years, Harrell is reminded by his loved ones that there is always room for improvement. Despite the motivation coming from his supporters, he is his own harshest critic.

“They always just help me remind myself that there's always ways I can improve. They motivate me every day,” Harrell said. “They don't put pressure on me at all. If anything, they help me relieve the pressure that I put on myself.

“I'm harder on myself than anyone else is on me. They're there to relax and help me to stay calm in tight situations and help me to remember that I've been playing this game for a while and to have fun.”

areichel@jg.net