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The Journal Gazette

March 15, 2017 1:02 AM

In-state incentive for IPFW, Ball State

Teams ready for CIT showdown at Gates

Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette

IPFW

vs. Ball State

What: CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Gates Center

For the IPFW and Ball State men’s basketball teams, being able to play in a postseason tournament provides an opportunity to grow as a team. Playing an in-state opponent adds a little extra motivation.

“They’re Ball State, an in-state program, so we’re going to come out and play as hard as we can,” said IPFW senior center Brent Calhoun, an Indianapolis native.

The teams last met in official competition on Dec. 1, 2008, a 54-52 Cardinals victory at Memorial Coliseum, but have played in closed scrimmages in the years since.

“We scrimmaged so early (in October),” Cardinals coach James Whitford said. “We probably each had 15-20 practices under our belts and now we’re both close to 100. I’m sure we evolved a lot.

“Specifically, our young guys are much more experienced, more sound than we were, many more plays, more that we can do. … We’re a much more complex team.”

With the announcement coming late Sunday, the teams began preparing Monday for today’s 7 p.m. game.

“The biggest key is based on us,” Mastodons coach Jon Coffman said. “Both of us are getting short prep, being engaged in the game, being excited about playing postseason basketball. No doubt both Ball State and us were locked in on playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“We both had squads that could compete for a league championship. Unfortunately, a lot of teams, their teams end with disappointment. Not everybody gets to go to the tournament. It’s a big challenge particularly in our league where there was a lot of parity. But these guys getting a chance to play in a postseason tournament, to be one of the last teams playing this year.”

IPFW (19-12) is looking for its 20th win after picking up its 100th win in five seasons in the regular-season finale at Western Illinois.

“I’m excited,” Coffman said. “I think these are two of the best teams in the tournament. It’s going to be a great challenge. Ball State’s playing at a high, high level right now. They have experience with some unique matchups with Franko House (13.4 points per game, all-MAC third team) and then Tayler Persons (15.4 points, all-MAC second team), who’s one of the best guards in the MAC.”

Ball State (21-12) will be without starting center Trey Moses, who tweaked his knee in the MAC Tournament against Akron last week.

Losing Moses, a member of the MAC’s all-defensive team, will come with challenges, but Tahjai Teague, who averages 18.8 minutes per game, and freshman Kyle Mallers, a Carroll graduate, will get an opportunity to play.

It also will provide Mallers with a chance to return to Fort Wayne and play in front of a home crowd again.

“I think it’ll be fun for him that way,” Whitford said. “That’s a benefit for the CIT for us, for those two freshmen (Mallers and Teague) to get a game like this is a big advantage.

“It’s going to be challenge. We’ll have some other guys that will have to step up.”

areichel@jg.net