FORT WAYNE – Basketball, as it’s been often observed, is a game of runs. And the team that has the longest extended scoring run, or the majority of them, usually has the better opportunity of winning.
For most of Thursday’s Summit League game at Memorial Coliseum, the Mastodons couldn’t put three baskets together without getting an answer from visiting South Dakota. Throughout the first half and halfway through the second, the most consecutive points IPFW scored against the Coyotes were four.
But then came a much-needed seven-point streak – one that brought the Mastodons from a six-point deficit into a one-point lead that catapulted IPFW to a 62-60 victory over South Dakota.
Trailing 48-42, IPFW senior guard Frank Gaines, scoreless the first half on 0-for-7 shooting, dropped in a basket from the right elbow.
Then Luis Jacobo hit a reverse layup, and Pierre Bland tipped back a Gaines miss, marking the first time all night IPFW (9-11, 2-4 Summit League) made three uninterrupted buckets.
It wasn’t until Gaines, who missed the first free throw, rolled in the second with 6:42 left that IPFW held its first lead, 49-48. South Dakota went scoreless for nearly five minutes and without a basket for nearly seven during IPFW’s run.
From that point on, there were three ties and three lead changes. Two free throws from sophomore point guard Isaiah McCray with 12.5 seconds and one from Gaines with 5.5 left helped to keep the Coyotes (7-12, 3-4) at bay.
Once I stepped up to the line, I knew my teammates had a lot of confidence in me, said McCray, who hurt his neck when he got bumped and fell beneath the South Dakota basket with 9:52 left in the game and didn’t return until 33.5 seconds were left.
I just said, Hey, this is going in; it’s got to go in. You work too hard at it. These are going in; don’t worry about missing it; don’t worry about doin’ nothin’ else; they’re going in. You’ll be fine.’
And while the offense is credited with seven unanswered points, it was the defense that allowed the brief run.
I don’t remember the exact stats where South Dakota is at, but they’re one of the top teams in our league in almost every offensive category – points (second, 71.7), field goal percentage (fifth, 44.2), three-pointers made (seventh, 426) and free throws – both attempted (third, 396) and made (tied for first, 310), IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. And I thought our guys really battled, for the most part, at the defensive end, which gave us a chance when, offensively, we were not at our best. That’s a sign of a team that cares and that’s trying to win the game.
Gaines’ 14 second-half points led IPFW.
Jacobo had 13, and Joe Edwards had 12.