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When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gates Center
Radio: 1380 AM

Deep bench integral to IPFW’s success

In the hieroglyphics of a basketball box score, it’s never the thing you notice first. It’s past a lot of other things, below the points and rebounds and makes and misses, down in real hoops-nerd territory.

There, lumped in with Points Off Turnovers and Second Chance Points, you’ll find the key that turns the lock for the IPFW men’s basketball team: Bench Points.

In the last 11 games, nine of them victories, IPFW’s bench has scored at least 15 points, and seven times it’s scored between 23 and 48. Eight times it’s matched or exceeded the opponent’s bench output.

So integral a part of everything has the bench been, in fact, that head coach Tony Jasick doesn’t even think of it as a bench. It’s just eight guys who can play.

“I don’t think we have eight guys that are the same,” he says. “I think each of them brings something different to the table. … It gives you an advantage in that as you go through a game, you’re going to have ups and downs. We can withstand some of those ups and downs, because we do have a number of guys that can come in and contribute on an equal level.”

And that makes them a preparation headache if you’re on the other sideline. The Mastodons (15-6, 3-1) have eight players who average between 20 and 31 minutes per game, and five players averaging between 8.1 and 14.9 points. Their leading rebounder, 6-foot-8 Joe Reed, hasn’t started a game but averages 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 25 minutes. Their leading 3-point shooter is freshman Mo Evans, who hasn’t started a game either.

Not that he cares.

“I would say my role is just to do whatever it takes to win right now until the coach says something to me to change that,” says Evans, a 6-foot guard who’s shooting just under 49 percent from the arc (38 of 87) and averaging 10.3 points in 20.9 minutes.

It was Evans who lifted the Mastodons a week ago, when they were struggling in the thin air of Denver.

IPFW eventually won 67-64 on the strength of a 36-25 run across the last 10 minutes – and Evans scored all of his team-high 18 points in that span.

Reed, meanwhile, contributed six points and five rebounds in 27 minutes as the change of pace inside to 6-9, 295-pound Steve Forbes.

“I actually like coming off the bench right now,” Reed says. “It helps me kind of see how the game’s going. I watch the first couple minutes and see how the refs are calling fouls. And you can see how the other team’s playing also.”

Yet another benefit of a deep and diverse bench.

“Other teams trying to scout us, it’s kind of hard for them when they look at a stat line (with) a bunch of guys that are scoring a lot of the same points,” Reed says. “Just gives them something else to prepare for,” Evans agrees.

And that’s never a bad thing.