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Mastodons senior ends slump at right time

Frankly, Gaines was in a shooting slump.

Note the “was.”

IPFW senior Frank Gaines, last season’s All-Summit League first-team guard and a preseason pick for the same this year, scored 29 points, including two free throws with 3.1 seconds remaining in overtime, to send the Mastodons to an 80-79 victory over IUPUI at the Gates Center.

Mired in a funk that saw his three-point shooting average dip to 28.6 percent and coming off a 43-40 loss to Western Illinois on Thursday when he hit 1 of 8 shots from the field, Gaines went 9 of 16 from the field Saturday, hit 6 of 9 three-pointers, made 5 of 7 from the free-throw line, including the two that had the weight of a mastodon, and was the only player who played all 45 minutes.

“I’ve been with Frank for five years,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “You learn through ups and downs where a guy’s at. He’s on our team, and he’s on our side. And (Saturday) I thought he was closer to the efficient Frank that was arguably the hardest guy to guard in the country at the end of last year. I thought he got back to that (Saturday).”

Besides Gaines and Jasick, the two others in the house who were most relieved that IPFW (10-13, 3-6 Summit League) escaped with the win were Joe Edwards and Pierre Bland.

It was Bland’s intercepted pass that turned into a layup from Greg Rice that sent IUPUI (6-18, 1-9) ahead 79-77 with 17.9 seconds remaining.

“I can’t repeat the vocabulary I was thinking,” Jasick said of the interception – even though Bland handed out nine assists.

Then steps forth sophomore Joe Edwards, who was fouled with 7.7 seconds left in overtime. Edwards made the first free throw to get IPFW within 79-78 but flew the second one short. The ball grazed off the front-left of the rim and scooted into the left corner, where Edwards – first to recognize the miss – chased down the rebound. He found Gaines with a pass, the 6-4 guard tried to drive but was fouled.

“That rebound was big time,” Gaines said.

The likelihood of an overtime being needed appeared to be slim when, with 11:36 remaining in regulation, a three-pointer from Edwards off a cross-court feed from Gaines sent the Mastodons into a giddy 54-39 lead that forced IUPUI into a timeout with the hopes of cooling off the 22-4 Mastodons run.

IUPUI came out with a press that sparked a 9-0 Jaguars run. And by the time the first 40 minutes were complete, the teams were deadlocked at 65. Now it was Gaines’ turn, as he scored nine of his team’s 15 in overtime.

So much for the slump.

“I just prayed on it,” Gaines said. “I knew I would come out of it – eventually.”

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