Squandering leads had been a staple of the Purdue Fort Wayne men's basketball season, even in the games the Mastodons had won.
But Saturday was a different animal altogether.
PFW led all but 1 minute, 1 second and defeated Illinois-Chicago 88-55.
“We took care of the basketball, had four less turnovers than them, and we had some good rebounding, limiting them to only three offensive rebounds (to our 11),” said PFW's Bobby Planutis, who had 12 points. “So we did a good job of not giving them second-chance shots and being able to push and go.”
Jarred Godfrey had 16 points and four rebounds for the Mastodons (4-5, 3-5 Horizon League). Michael Diggins' 23 points paced the Flames (5-4, 2-2), who lost back-to-back games at the Gates Center.
“I'm proud of just the effort,” PFW coach Jon Coffman said. “We put together a weekend and put together a 40-minute effort today. Our mantra has been that Day 2 (of a doubleheader) is the tougher day, facing a tougher team, and it was good to have success there and it can be really mentally taxing.”
PFW shot 49.2% from the field, compared with UIC's 39.3%, and the Mastodons' Deonte Billups and Jalon Pipkins held playmaker Teyvion Kirk to eight points, his second fewest of the season, on 4-of-10 shooting.
Beyond the arc, PFW made 11 of 18 shots and UIC was 6 of 24.
The Mastodons got 15 points from Billups, who was 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and 14 points from Pipkins. DeMierre Black added nine.
“I feel like Deonte has finally gotten into his groove and his body's back. I feel like he's moving up and he's shooting the ball better than he ever did last year (as a freshman),” Coffman said of Billups, who has been hindered by injury and multiple quarantines during the pandemic.
PFW defeated UIC 96-89 in overtime Friday, when Godfrey totaled 41 points – three short of Max Landis' program record – even though the Mastodons squandered an 11-point lead in the final minutes of regulation.
The Mastodons kept at it early Saturday, Godfrey's jump shot 1:01 into the game giving them a lead they'd never squander. Key shots included a Godfrey fall-away from the top of the key at the shot-clock buzzer; a Pipkins reverse dunk at the end of a fastbreak; a Planutis 3-pointer set up by a Ra Kpedi save of the ball out of bounds; and a Godfrey 3-pointer as he fell out of bounds.
The onslaught continued in the second half, when a Planutis 3-pointer gave PFW a 52-29 lead.
As for playing with a lead, Coffman commended his team for making smarter plays, “doing little things and stacking them,” while also maintaining intensity.
“We were just playing with our flow, like coach says, moving the ball, getting to the shots, limiting them to one shot, and then just stringing together stops,” Planutis said. “I think we had nine or 10 stops in a row to start the game. We were turning it over to begin the game, so we didn't get to build the lead (more). But once we started getting scores and stops, we were good after that.”