FORT WAYNE – Saturday was Senior Night at IPFW, and so for Pierre Bland, Luis Jacobo and Michael Kibiloski, the evening began with applause at midcourt and gifts: their own framed jerseys.
Unfortunately for them, déjÀ vu did not come similarly framed.
Down 13 points to the Denver Pioneers with 13:42 to play – a circumstance eerily reminiscent of two weeks ago in a comeback win against Omaha – IPFW got it down to three with 8:08 left and four with five minutes left, but then history chose not to repeat itself. The Pioneers (13-12, 6-4 Summit League) steadied, sought shelter at the free throw line down the stretch and took down the Mastodons, 73-62.
It was only the second loss in 14 home games this season for the Mastodons (19-9, 7-4) and dropped them two games behind front-running North Dakota State in the Summit League with three games to play. And it happened because the Mastodons played an uncharacteristically sloppy floor game (17 turnovers) and failed to adequately guard the 3-point line, where the Pioneers burned IPFW with 12 3s in 21 attempts.
Too careless, was IPFW coach Tony Jasick’s verdict. We were too careless to win against a good team like Denver is. The turnovers are the result of the carelessness.
I thought we were as careless as we’ve been (all year). I don’t know if 17 is the biggest number of the year, but it’s definitely in the upper echelon of bad nights offensively.
Bryant Rucker (18 points, 3 3s) and Brett Olsen (18 points, 15 in the second half, and four 3s) were the particular culprits for Denver, which took over the game with a 12-0 run in the first half and refused to be caught thereafter.
We know that they are shooters, and we let them have a lot of open shots, said Jacobo, who finished with 10 points. I think out of all the shots they took in the first half, we probably contested about three of them. We made it tough on a couple of them and a couple of them they missed – but we didn’t do a good enough job, and that’s just the effort part for us.
Bland (15 points), Steve Forbes (11), Jacobo and Joe Reed (10) led the Mastodons, who dominated inside – outrebounding Denver 31-16 and outscoring the Pioneers 30-20 in the paint and 16-0 on second-chance points – but struggled from the 3-point line, making just 6 of 20.
The Mastodons led 17-10 eight minutes in and seemed in control, and then it abruptly unraveled at both ends. Eight turnovers led to 10 Pioneers points, and a failure to properly monitor the 3-point line led to a whole lot more, as Denver feasted from the arc.
Result: Seven 3s in 12 attempts for the Pioneers, and a corresponding stretch of 6:16 in which the Mastodons failed to score a point. And a 35-25 Denver lead at the break that the Pioneers would never relinquish.
I thought in the first half we didn’t do a great job of running them off the 3-point line, said Jasick, whose team is 1-3 in its last four and finishes with three straight road games.
Now it’s on to the last three games, where the solution is simple.
Heart, Jacobo said. We’ve got play with heart. We’ve got to dig down and get everyone going.