FORT WAYNE – Here is what IPFW men’s basketball coach Tony Jasick can tell you about Denver: It has 300 days of sunshine a year.
I’m full of fun facts about Denver, he says, laughing.
Consider that all part of knowing your terrain, a useful skill when you’re headed for the unexplored country. That’s Jasick’s Mastodons (14-5, 2-0) this week, who play at Summit League newcomer Denver (7-9, 0-1) tonight and then head for the more familiar outpost of Vermillion, S.D., to take on South Dakota (6-9, 1-0) on Saturday.
The Mastodons won there a year ago by 13 (64-51). They’ve never won or lost at Denver, which plays a style roughly comparable, if not on the same level, as Division III Kalamazoo College, which IPFW dispatched easily 12 days ago.
That was a good game for us to get out and kind of guard some of the stuff that we’ll see, says Jasick, whose team has won eight of its last nine games and took care of North Dakota State and South Dakota State at home last week. Having not played (Denver) before, and them playing a unique style, I do think that adds a new element to the league.
You know you’ve played North Dakota State and South Dakota State for however many years we’ve played them. You have a feel for kind of how they play the game, their personnel. This is all new.
But not overwhelming, at least to date. The Pioneers have lost three of their last four with a team that’s made 126 3-pointers on 360 attempts, a 43 percent clip. The Mastodons, by contrast, are 155 of 384 from the arc, or just under 50 percent – numbers that will be tested against Denver, which has allowed only 65 3s and 34 percent shooting from there.
I think it’s a positive that we play them on Thursday as opposed to Saturday for that very reason, Jasick says.
It’s also a positive that he’s taking a confident, veteran team on the road that isn’t easy to defend these days, mainly because it has so many effective moving parts. In the two victories last week, IPFW got 53 points from its bench versus 14 for its two opponents, and Jasick so freely moves players in and out of the lineup he says he’s not sure who his bench actually is these days.
That sort of luxury tends to get magnified on the road, where a team needs every advantage it can get.
I think what it does is there’s not as much pressure on one guy, Jasick says. I think there’s a little more pressure on your opponents in terms of scouting and who they’re going to try to take away and what they’re going to try to do.
It’s a different feel knowing you don’t rely on one guy or two guys. If a certain player goes out and doesn’t play real well, we can withstand that versus the last couple years where we’d have been in a world of hurt. So I think for our team that’s a positive.