FORT WAYNE – After IPFWs 77-71 victory over Oakland on Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum, IPFW coach Tony Jasick had a point to make.
If youre arguing whos playing the best basketball right now in our league, Oakland and us are in the argument, Jasick said.
For the first time this season, IPFW (13-16, 6-9 Summit League) has won three consecutive games, while Oakland (15-14, 10-5) had its seven-game winning streak broken.
After letting an 11-point first-half lead slip into a two-point deficit with 5:30 remaining in the game, the Mastodons went on a 14-1 run to pull away.
Even with 3:56 remaining, when the leagues second-leading scorer, Travis Bader (22.1 average) hit a free throw, Oakland owned a 65-64 lead.
But IPFWs own offensive threat, the Summits No. 3 scorer, Frank Gaines (19.3) made a free throw after getting fouled going to the basket. Center Mario Hines hit an easy one off a Luis Jacobo feed. Jacobo buried a three. And free throws finished off the Grizzlies, who couldnt climb back into the game because Bader misfired on three consecutive shots, even though he finished with 23.
I thought it was actually kind of funny to watch Frank and Bader, Jasick said. Frank was being guarded chest-to-chest at one end, and were guarding Bader chest-to-chest on the other end. Once we started moving the ball and moving our bodies, we had about four layups in a row that kind of took some of the pressure off of our ball-handlers and off of Frank to get catches and do things.
Gaines did his thing, especially in the first half when he scored 13 points in the opening 12 minutes. From then on, the Grizzlies overpursued Gaines, who finished with 17.
We always expect (opponents) to overplay Frank, Joe Edwards said. Hes a great player. We try to move around, try to get him off screens and drive, kick out – anything to get him open. We know theyre basically going to guard him chest-to-chest.
But that gave the other Mastodons room to roam.
Jacobo scored nine in the second half and finished with 15 points. Joe Reed had 10 in the last half and finished with 14. Edwards scored eight of his 11 in the second half, and Hines scored 10.
Thats pretty good having five guys in double figures and shooting 48 percent in the second half, Jasick said.
But there will be an IPFW-Oakland sequel; perhaps two.
The Mastodons travel to Rochester, Mich., on March 2, the last day of the regular season, and could face the Grizzlies again in the Summit League tournament.