Beginning with Thursdays victory, then into Saturday, and extending through next week, this four-game homestand was supposed to be the part of the schedule that could have vaulted IPFW over the .500 mark for the first time since early in the season.
And while it was a scary two-point victory Thursday, the Mastodons dropped South Dakota, nevertheless. Next on the docket were UMKC, Western Illinois and IUPUI. With the exception of second-place Western Illinois, the schedule looked delicious since the three other teams didnt have winning records – either overall or in the Summit League.
Furthermore, IPFW hadnt lost at home this season – until Saturday.
UMKC, which had lost 10 of its last 11 games, held IPFW to one point over the final five minutes to escape with a 63-59 victory over the Mastodons at Memorial Coliseum.
Its definitely a disappointing loss, no question, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. We were looking to build a bunch of momentum through this four-game home stretch, and now weve got to try and build a little momentum in practice.
IPFW (9-12, 2-5 Summit League) faces Western Illinois and IUPUI next week at the Gates Center.
Stay positive, said senior guard Frank Gaines, who led IPFW with 17 points. Make sure everybodys on the same page and move on to the next game. We have a little while to go in the conference season. Stay positive and keep playing.
The Mastodons rolled out to an 18-9 lead with 7:59 left in the first half, but UMKC (6-14, 3-5) answered by outscoring IPFW 17-7 since then for a 26-25 halftime lead.
From then on, it was anyones game.
Back-to-back three-point plays from freshman center Joe Reed sent IPFW on one of its most prolific scoring streaks of the season when it scored 17 points in a little over four minutes.
With 5:16 remaining, Gaines scored on a twisting drive from the left side to send IPFW in front 58-56. It was the last basket the Mastodons would get.
Coming into the game last in the Summit League in free-throw percentage (64.7), the Mastodons went 1 for 7 from the line the remainder of the game.
Isaiah McCray, whose two free throws helped secure the win against South Dakota, missed on a one-and-one with 4:46 left. Joe Edwards, a 48.5 percent shooter, missed two. His one free throw with 3:44 left tied the game at 59, but, with IPFW still trailing by four, he missed two more with 6.2 seconds left.
It wasnt the lack of scoring that scalded Jasick, but the lack of defense when the Kangaroos were matching IPFW basket for basket midway through the final period.
Obviously, very disappointed, Jasick said. Disappointed for our team; disappointed in our effort (Saturday) in a number of different areas. Our issues were on the other end. They shot 58 percent in the second half and dominated us on the offensive glass.