FORT WAYNE – One heavyweight down. One on deck.
The turnaround is head-snapping this time of year if you’re a college basketball team wading into conference play. And if there were any doubts about the IPFW Mastodons, the last 36 hours certainly dispelled them.
At a few minutes before 9 o’clock Thursday night, they were celebrating a huge 82-71 win over preseason Summit League favorite North Dakota State in their conference opener. At 7 tonight, they’ll tip off against South Dakota State, which no longer has standout guard Nate Wolters but brings a lineup that features four double-figure scorers, a backcourt that goes 6-foot-5 and 6-4, and two big forwards who average 31 points and 15.3 rebounds between them.
So much for resting on those cushy laurels.
They’ll get patted on the back here for the next few minutes and (it’s) to the trainer to get their bodies right, and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow at noon for practice, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said Thursday evening. We’ve got a good South Dakota State team coming in, and at the end of the day you’ve got to take care of home (court).
The Mastodons did that and then some Thursday, getting stellar work from Luis Jacobo (20 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals), Steve Forbes (14 points, four rebounds, one block) and Pierre Bland (12 points, three assists, four steals), among many others. IPFW got a game-changing 29 points off its bench and 24 off 15 Bison turnovers, and sealed it by dropping 20 of 21 from the free throw line.
It was the streaking Mastodons’ seventh win in their last eight games. And it was archive material as soon as the final horn sounded.
That’s because of a 9-7 South Dakota State team led by 6-foot-8 Jordan Dykstra and 6-9 Cody Larson, who combined for 48 points and 15 boards Thursday in an 86-70 hammering of IUPUI in Indianapolis. Guard Brayden Carlson, who goes 6-5, added 19 points, and 6-4 point guard Jake Bittle chipped in 10 and six assists.
It was the Jackrabbits’ third road win in eight tries this season, which suggests their game travels reasonably well. And it also suggests that life has gone on without Wolters, who averaged 24.3 points and 6.4 rebounds last year while leading the Jackrabbits to their second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
He’s currently a Milwaukee Buck.
They’re obviously playing differently because they lost Nate Wolters, Jasick says. But that being said, they’re going to spread the floor, they’ve got a bunch of shooters, and they’ve got a couple of inside guys who are pretty effective.
They’ve also got a culture of winning that’s been built over the last few years. So no doubt they’ll come in and be ready to play.