FORT WAYNE – It begins today, 600 or so miles south of Fort Wayne and 40 minutes north and west of Atlanta.
That’s where the roadwork starts for an IPFW men’s basketball team that’s 4-2 and just beginning to gather itself here in the early days of the season. It ends in 13 days, when the Mastodons return to play Dartmouth at Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 7, homecoming day.
In between, they’ll travel roughly 1,400 miles and play in three states, starting in Georgia with Kennesaw State, a Big South school that’s 2-4 now and 1-3 at home. They’ll spend Thanksgiving Day somewhere in central Illinois, where they play Eastern Illinois in Charleston the day before and Illinois in Champaign the day after. Then they’ll head east to Oxford, Ohio, where they’ll play Miami of Ohio on Dec. 3.
Somewhere in all of those miles, they might learn a few things about themselves.
Just learning that we can stay together, point guard Pierre Bland said of that the other night, after the Mastodons ran NAIA foe Purdue-Calumet out of the Gates Center, 106-72. That’s what our main focus is this year – staying together, staying focused. Like I always say, you’ve got to stay hungry and humble.
I believe the road trips and from our previous tests, we’ve shown that we can do that, especially come late game. That’s what we’re looking for coming up this weekend playing against Kennesaw.
That process perhaps began in Texas last weekend, where the Mastodons won two games by a combined nine points and lost the third, to Texas-Corpus Christi, by a single point. Then came the blowout against Calumet, in which Jasick was able to play everyone he had and 11 of his 14 players scored at least four points.
Five players hit double figures, and the Mastodons got 62 points from their bench, led by Mo Evans’ game-high 22 in 25 minutes and Joe Reed’s 11 in 23 minutes. That suggests depth that will allow Jasick to play the push-the-ball tempo he wants, and will come in handy not just across the next 13 days but throughout the season.
The key is we’re getting pretty good shots, we’re not forcing too much, says Jasick, who notes that the return to the lineup of a healthy Kevin Harden and Luis Jacobo will only help that process. In Texas, having Kevin back helped us win a game – diving for a loose ball in the Pan-Am game, just the stuff he does as he continues to get more confidence in his knee.
And the addition of Luis helps us because he can make shots. And I also think he has the ability to draw defenses and kick it, so we’re getting more rhythm perimeter shots than maybe we have had in past.
And the road trip?
The quote we always talk about is Talented teams win and tough teams win on the road,’ Jasick says. We haven’t won a true road game yet, so hopefully we can put 40 minutes together in an environment that isn’t the security blanket of being at home.
For us to continue to move forward, we need to have a good run here in these next four.