FORT WAYNE – They shot 51 percent. Their two big guns combined for 35 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. And they won the rebounding battle, 28-25, including 26-13 across the last 28 minutes.
Oh, yes. And the North Dakota State Bison, your preseason pick to win the Summit League, did one more thing Thursday in the Gates Center.
Score it IPFW 82, North Dakota State 71 in the conference opener for both schools, as IPFW (13-5, 1-0) beat the Bison defensively, beat them off the bench and beyond the arc and even at the free throw line, which was not a place the Mastodons have beaten many people this year.
Luis Jacobo scored 20 points, three other Mastodons scored in double figures and six players scored at least eight points as IPFW outscored North Dakota State 29-5 off the bench and 24-10 off turnovers.
A complete team win, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said, stating the obvious. I thought everybody that came in contributed, which is kind of how we make our money, so to speak. I don’t know that we had one guy on our team that didn’t come in and do his job to try to help our team.
That would include Jacobo, who was 8 of 8 from the stripe as IPFW, which came in shooting 64 percent from the free throw line, went 20 of 21 from there. It would include 6-foot-9 Steve Forbes, who scored 14 points, took four rebounds and got a piece of a Marshall Bjorklund shot in the last minute as the Bison (11-5, 0-1) were trying to reel in the Mastodons.
And it would include Joe Edwards (12 points) and Pierre Bland, who scored 12, dished three assists and made four of the Mastodons 11 steals.
That was the emphasis this week was defense, defense, defense, Bland said. That’s what our main focus was, and that’s what we try to do every game. But this game we locked in and we got it done.
And they did right from the jump.
From a tie at 8, the Mastodons reeled off a 17-2 run to open a 25-10 lead nine minutes in, forcing five turnovers and scoring eight points off them to fuel the burst. That took them into halftime with a 38-31 lead, and they were equal to every challenge thereafter.
The stiffest came after a 3-pointer by North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun (16 points) and a bucket and free throw by Lawrence Alexander trimmed a 79-71 deficit to 62-59 with 5:27 to play.
Bland answered by banking in a 3 from straightaway, Reed cashed a bucket and free throw and Bland put back a transition miss off a Mo Evans steal, and the Mastodons had the lead was back to 70-61 with 3:45 showing.
It proved enough on a night when the visitors led only twice, the last at 4-2.
If we can do that the rest of the way, we’ll win more games than we’ll lose, Jasick said.
That’s the idea.
Tonight, we were focused, Bland said. We knew this was a big game, a statement game; the coaches have been emphasizing that all week. And we felt like once we played how knew how to play, we got the result we wanted, which was the win.