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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:00 am

Not getting any easier for Mastodons

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

IPFW vs. South Dakota

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Memorial Coliseum

TV: Comcast 81

Radio: ESPN 1380 AM/100.9 FM

The IPFW men's basketball team got a rude awakening Jan. 4 when it dropped its Summit League opener at Oral Roberts after shooting 3 of 23 from beyond the arc and failing to execute other key details.

Two days later, despite another below-average long-range shooting performance (10 of 36), the Mastodons' attention to detail was better en route to an 82-63 win at Denver.

Now, the Mastodons (12-7, 1-1 Summit League) return to Memorial Coliseum tonight to play host to defending regular-season champion South Dakota.

“We have to bring it every night,” IPFW senior guard Bryson Scott said. “That's one thing we learned from playing Oral Roberts, it woke us up. We came ready to play against Denver, so hopefully we come ready to play against South Dakota.”

The Coyotes are led by Matt Mooney, a 6-3 sophomore guard who averages 17.7 points and shoots 38.2 percent (42 of 110) from 3-point range, and Tyler Hagedorn, a 6-10 junior who averages 13.4 points and shoots 34.8 percent (24 of 69) from 3. Mooney was first-team All-Summit League last season.

“Mooney's a good player for them last year and this year,” Scott said. “They have some good pieces, good role players. They're going to be a tough team to beat, but I feel like we'll be all right, we can handle them.”

The Coyotes (14-5, 2-1) are 14th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25. They are coming off an 84-79 loss to North Dakota State after back-to-back wins over Denver and Western Illinois to open league play.

“To me, South Dakota and South Dakota State are the two teams that are most prepared to win our league tournament, right now,” IPFW coach Jon Coffman said. “Luckily for us, our league tournament isn't tomorrow. We have another two months, and this team's evolving.”

South Dakota's other losses were at TCU (76-71, Nov. 15), home to Northern Colorado (63-62, Nov. 25), at then-No. 1 Duke (96-80, Dec. 2) and at UCLA (85-82, Dec. 19).

“We know that South Dakota is a much better shooting team than Oral Roberts,” senior forward Xzavier Taylor said. “We know that South Dakota is not a pound-it-in-the-post team like ORU. They're a 3-point-shooting team, they're going to be on the perimeter.”

Taylor said he, along with Dylan Carl and Cam Benford will have to be aware of Mooney and Hagendorn.

“They're going to shoot 3s, so we have to dial it in to those two,” Taylor said.

The Mastodons dropped two to the Coyotes last season, falling 66-63 at South Dakota and 93-82 at Memorial Coliseum. Those losses leave a sour taste in Coffman's mouth.

“Our guys, they expect to win every game,” he said. “I think every time you can get a conference game, it's big. I do think our guys have this game marked.

“ I'll be candid, they came in and punched us in the nose, and we didn't punch back hard enough when they came to our place last year. We led at some point in the second half, it wasn't like we didn't prepare or show up.”