IPFW at Oral Roberts
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Mabee Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Radio: ESPN 1380 AM, 100.9 FM
Phase Two of (potentially) four begins today for the IPFW men's basketball season with the start of Summit League play.
The Mastodons ended Phase One (non-conference play) with an 11-6 record, but the team doesn't gauge success based on quantitative output.
It's about the qualitative, process-centric progress.
“I feel like our focus has been growing, especially the games that we should have won that we fell down the stretch,” junior guard Kason Harrell said. “The Olivet game (a 99-93 win Dec. 28) really opened up our eyes as far as the fact that anything can happen at any time. Our focus to be us and focus on our process has been growing as the year's gone on.
“We had 11 wins in non-conference which is good,” he added. “We let a couple games slip away but as far as our process and where we are on both ends of the floor, I think we're where we need to be and I can't wait to see where we can go as the year goes on.”
IPFW opens on the road with Oral Roberts today and at Denver on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles (8-11, 1-0 Summit League) opened their conference schedule with an 93-74 win over Omaha on Dec. 30.
“They're absolutely elite on the offensive glass,” coach Jon Coffman said of ORU. “They're averaging almost 15 offensive rebounds per game. Their four-man (Javan White) is the best in our league at offensive rebounding, averaging almost four a game.
“They're going to play three post players. (Emmanuel) Nzekwesi, who started for them at the four last year, is playing at the three. They're going the opposite of us. We like to size down and stretch you out, they like to pound you in the post and upsize you.”
Nzekwesi, this week's conference player of the week, averages 12.8 points per game. Albert Owens (12.4 points), Austin Ruder (11.5) and White (10.8) are also averaging double figures.
“Oral Roberts is playing at a high, high level,” Coffman said. “They just came off a 19-point win over Omaha. They've had some really high-level wins. They beat Florida Gulf Coast and Missouri State, both teams that have received and been ranked in the mid-major Top 25. It'll be a tough battle and then you go to Denver and that's challenging in its own right, as well.”
To be able to get one, potentially two, road wins to open conference season would be a huge boost in a league with such parity.
The non-conference schedule, though, despite the tough road losses, has been critical in preparing the team for league play.
“Any win in league play is huge,” Harrell said. “First, our goal is to go 1-0 and then we'll go on to Denver after that. If we can get two out of here and start the league off with a bang, that would be huge for us.
“Literally everything we've seen in non-conference play is everything that teams in our league do from certain ball-screen actions to certain ways they defend the post to presses to zones, stuff like that. We're going to be seeing that all year in our league. To be able to do that against high-ranked guys and some tough non-conference teams, it was really good for us.”