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IPFW
at South Dakota State
When: 8 p.m. today
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Mastodons hit road to face Dakota foes

– And now, the road.

It runs from Fort Wayne to Brookings, S.D., to Fargo, N.D., this week, and somewhere in all that windswept nothingness, the IPFW men’s basketball team hopes to learn considerably more than nothing about itself.

One thing it already knows, or believes it does: Even the dustiest cliché holds an essential truth.

“I think we just have to stay focused the whole time and just take it game by game,” says Joe Reed, fearlessly tossing the cliché out there. “And after the first one’s done, we have to get ready for the next one. Just do it one game at a time.”

His coach backs him up on that one.

“Whether you win or lose the previous game, we’ve got to put it behind us and try to attack the next one,” Tony Jasick acknowledges. “It sounds like coachspeak, but when you do play as many games on the road as we’re going to, if things don’t go your way, it can snowball. And so we’ve got to make sure we do look at each game as a single event, prepare for it and then once it’s done move on to the next task at hand.”

The Mastodons have been more than decent at that sort compartmentalization, which accounts for their 18-6 record and Summit League-leading 6-1 mark. But the tough part of the conference slate is ahead of them, with five of their last seven games being played away from the Gates Center, where they’re 11-1 this year.

Now it’s off to all that empty space in the Dakotas, where the Mastodons face their toughest double of the season: A game at South Dakota State (12-10, 4-3) today, followed by the big showdown with second-place and preseason conference favorite North Dakota State (16-6, 5-2) in Fargo two days later. The Mastodons beat them both in the Gates Center last month, taking down North Dakota State by 11 and South Dakota State by seven.

One game at a time, indeed.

“I think we’re not looking beyond (South Dakota State) at all,” Reed says. “That’s all that’s on our mind right now. We don’t really look at the big picture right now.”

That might have happened a little bit on the Mastodons’ first Summit League road trip, when they struggled to beat Denver and then lost by 14 at South Dakota. It remains their only conference loss, and an instructive one.

“I hope that that we learned a little bit about taking things for granted, about preparation, from the last league road trip,” says Jasick, whose team took care of its home court with wins over IUPUI, Omaha and Western Illinois last week. “And then hopefully we continue to play well, come out of the gate and have a lot more energy, a lot more pace to what we’re doing than we did last time.”

Which everything brings us back to the cliché again.

“For us as we play the second half, because clearly the second half the schedule is not in our favor, looking at every game as a one-game entity is critical,” Jasick says.

bensmith@jg.net

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