SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The first shot, from a foot or so away, refused to bed down. The second was refused entry. So was the next. So was the next.
But Steve Forbes is a stubborn man.
And so, one last time, with IPFW swiftly putting IUPUI in its wake, he tipped the ball again – and this time, almost with an exasperated sigh (OK, OK), it cooperated.
Two points. A 6-point lead. And, for that reason and many others, the third time against the Mastodons proved more harm than charm for IUPUI on Saturday night, as IPFW (23-9) simply ran the Jaguars out of Sioux Falls Arena, 85-47, in the quarterfinal round of The Summit League tournament.
It was the Mastodons’ third double-digit win over the Jags this season, and, with 23 wins, they’ve now equaled the school record for victories on any level.
I don’t think you can really ever predict a school record for wins, said IPFW coach Tony Jasick, whose team advances to the semifinals for the fourth time in school history. But I do think we had brought together a nice team. I thought our talent was pretty good. I thought we’d recruited some guys with some toughness. But you can’t evaluate chemistry, you can’t evaluate character, to a point of a character of a team.
And I think in those intangible areas, we’re as good as anybody out there.
Saturday night, they were pretty good at lockjawed defense and plain stubbornness around the glass, as evidenced by Forbes’ refusal to be refused.
Ball was messin’ with me there, he said. I wanted the ball a little bit more, I guess.
As did they all.
For the night, IPFW outboarded IUPUI 39-23, including 12-5 on offense. It harassed the Jaguars into 15 turnovers and 21-of-51 shooting (41.2 percent). And at the other end, the damage came from everywhere: Luis Jacobo led the Mastodons with 19 points, but Mo Evans (13), Forbes (11) and Joe Edwards (10) also cracked double figures, and Forbes (9), Jacobo (7) and Pierre Bland (6) had at least half a dozen rebounds.
When we get some stops, we’re pretty good on the offensive end, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. Hopefully, we can translate some of that to Monday night.
The Mastodons will play the winner between South Dakota State and Western Illinois, who play at 9:30 p.m. today.
On Saturday night, it was a dazzling first-half run that pretty much ended the suspense.
After four early lead changes, the Mastodons put IUPUI in their wake, taking off on an 18-4 run highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Evans and Michael Kibiloski. It would never get any better for IUPUI, which scored just 8 points and turned it over six times across the last 12:23 of the first half to limp into halftime down 40-22.
We’ve been practicing a lot in preparation for this game on our defense, Jacobo said. In order for us to get to where we want to get to, we have to become a better team defensively. So our preparation throughout the week definitely paid off.
There’s a chance, he said, when asked if this was the Mastodons’ most complete effort in the conference tournament. I don’t know what our numbers are. But we played pretty well tonight.
It was a credit to our advance preparation and our discipline.