FORT WAYNE – Maybe it wasn’t the moment that officially sent the IUPUI Jaguars back down I-69 with a large capital L for a traveling companion. But surely it pointed the way.
Surely when IPFW forward Steve Forbes, all 6-foot-9 and 295 pounds of him, put the basketball on the floor and drove down the baseline for a layup like a man indulging his inner Kobe, it was a sign that this was probably not going to be IUPUI’s night Saturday in the battle of state rivals.
I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea what I was gonna do until I did it, said Forbes, on the far side of a 16-point, 7-rebound night and a 90-75 victory. It was one of those body take over type of things. Scored the bucket, so that was good.
A lot of things were good for the Mastodons (16-6, 4-1 Summit League), who got back on track after the loss at South Dakota.
Forbes’ eyebrow-hoisting trip down the baseline was one good thing. So were Luis Jacobo’s team-high 19 points and five 3s, and Pierre Bland’s 16-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist, three-steal, one-turnover night. So were five players in double figures overall, and 13 3s in 26 tries, and a 42-24 advantage in points in the paint.
IPFW tormented IUPUI inside and out all evening, thanks to a 37-28 rebounding edge that led to a 16-5 edge in second-chance points that in turn led to those 13 3s.
If you can bottle that up and play that way I thought the ball moved, I thought we were really unselfish, I thought we had great energy in transition, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. When you can play that way on the offensive end, it gives your team a little bit of a boost. I thought it helped us tonight.
He wasn’t the only one.
It was just fun to play tonight, Bland said. We got back to IPFW basketball – a lot of paint touches, inside-out just like in practice. When you do that, then we have these kind of nights on offense where we get open 3s and domination in the paint.
The Mastodons trailed 10-8 early and then they took off. A Joe Reed layup and a Jacobo 3-pointer ignited a 9-0 run, and IPFW used that as the starting point for an 18-4 flurry to blow out to a 26-14 lead on a Mo Evans 3 at the 10:17 mark.
The lead reached 17 points on yet another Jacobo 3 before IPFW cruised into halftime with the 15-point lead.
The Mastodons dropped 7 of 14 from beyond the arc and pummeled the Jaguars inside as well, outscoring them 22-12 in the paint.
They bumped the lead to 19 a couple of times in the first seven minutes of the second half, before a 13-5 run for the Jaguars cut the lead to 59-48 at the 12-minute mark.
But once again, the Mastodons went back to their comfort zone beyond the arc. Jacobo replied with a 3 and then Michael Kibiloski stuck another, and the lead was back to 17 at 65-48. IUPUI never got closer than the final score again.
Khufu Najee led the Jaguars (5-17, 0-5) with 20 points, and Mitch Patton and Ja’Rob McCallum each had 18.
None of them had an answer for an IPFW team that shot 56.5 percent (35 of 62), including 56.7 percent (17 of 30) in the second half while going inside first as usual.
I feel like that’s our emphasis for every game, said Forbes, whose baseline sojourn came with 4:44 to play in the first half and put the Mastodons up 37-23.
We like to play inside-out. Today they doubled every time, so that’s easy kickouts to the (guys outside), and threes galore.