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vs. South Dakota St.
When: 7 p.m. today
Radio: 1380 AM

Slumping IPFW eyes turnaround in tourney

– What began during October practices as a season of hope for the IPFW men’s basketball team is nearly at a close.

Twenty-four games are history – 10 of them victories – with seven regular season games remaining, two of which will be crossed off after this week when the Mastodons (3-7 Summit League) meet South Dakota State (18-6, 9-2) tonight at Memorial Coliseum, and North Dakota State (18-6, 9-2) on Saturday at the Gates Center. Both, along with Western Illinois, are leading the Summit League standings.

While IPFW may be a distant seventh, with no hope of winning the regular season title, coach Tony Jasick isn’t ready to hoist the white flag of surrender.

“We have a chance to win the league tournament,” Jasick says.

That remains the dangling carrot for a team that has won twice in its last seven games.

“Our main goal is out there. We can win the tournament championship. That’s definitely out there,” junior forward Michael Kibiloski said. “We know we have to win a couple games here at the end to get a good spot in the tourney. We know we’re a good enough team that once we make the tourney we can make a little run.

“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to know our shot at the regular season (championship) is over, but you’ve got to stay focused; you’ve got to stay positive. Everybody’s got to buy in and nobody can be discouraged.”

IPFW is coming off an 86-79 loss last week at Nebraska Omaha – a team the Mastodons beat 96-78 a month ago in Fort Wayne.

Following the loss, the team had a players-only meeting.

“We just pointed out different things that each player needs to work on the rest of the season to help the team,” Kibiloski said. “We took that meeting really positively, and I think we came away with a good outlook of what we want to do and what we need to accomplish.”

Yes, there is still the 2012-13 season remaining, Jasick points out. And yes, there is a responsibility to seniors Mario Hines and Frank Gaines to squeeze as much as possible from the rest of February and into March. But without giving up 2013, there is 2014 to point to, as well.

“It’s twofold,” Jasick says. “We’re trying to do whatever to get this team as good as we can get it for right now, and then making sure we continue to be very calculated the way we coach this entire group with the plan in place of building sustainable success.”