Purdue Fort Wayne has won four straight – two against Illinois-Chicago at the Gates Center and two at Milwaukee – and it's catapulted the Mastodons (6-5, 5-5 in the Horizon League) into fifth place in the 12-team conference standings.
During the streak, guard Jarred Godfrey has played some of the best men's basketball in the country, averaging 24.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals.
“Teams are definitely trying to (buckle down on him), but it's very hard,” forward Dylan Carl said. “UIC and Milwaukee played two different defenses. Milwaukee didn't want us to get dump-down (plays), so we got kick outs. UIC didn't play help defense at all, so Jarred was just getting to the rim. They're trying different stuff but we're just continuing to make it work.”
The Mastodons' hope is that whatever Godfrey is doing, he'll have plenty of help through long-range shooting. The Mastodons have converted 38 of 70 shots (54.3%) from 3-point range during the win streak.
For the season, PFW has made 97 of 221 shots from beyond the arc; their 43.9% success rate is the best in Division I. Opposing teams have made 86 of 283 (30.4%).
While Godfrey has made 24 of 53 shots from 3-point range, he's had plenty of help. Demetric Horton is 21 of 57, Bobby Planutis is 20 of 45, Deonte Billups is 18 of 39, and Jalon Pipkins is 9 of 19.
“The 3-pointers are very important here in this program,” Carl said. “The second game against Milwaukee (an 81-74 victory), we made 12 of 17. I mean, I can only imagine if we played a team that was 12 of 17; it makes a team pretty hard to beat when they shoot that well. Last year, we didn't shoot as well, but we were a lot younger team. This year, we have a lot of newcomers, (including several transfers), and everyone is older. Jarred, our primary ball-handler, is older and he knows the reads better. We're getting open shots and we're making them.”
The Mastodons face Green Bay (3-11, 3-7) at the Kress Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 5 p.m. today and Saturday. The first-ever meetings between the teams could set up nicely for the Mastodons, since the Phoenix has allowed opponents to shoot 48.9% from the field, including 35% from 3-point range.
“(Long-range shooting) has been something that we've always taken pride in. And not just volume, but efficiency,” said PFW coach Jon Coffman, noting that he's equally happy with his team's successes in the paint and in free throws.
“I thought last year's group was really good, we just didn't complete the plays by knocking down the 3s, as much as we had in past years, though they had a really good process toward the end of the year. This group, from Day 1, they've had a great process.”
Green Bay is led by Amari Davis, who averages 17.1 points, and Josh Jefferson, who scores 15.1 per game.
“I think where the confidence has come (lately) has been in closing the game with winning plays,” Coffman said. “We had an overtime win (against Southeastern Louisiana) to start the year, and we were good enough to make some of those plays, and that was with Deonte and Jarred on the bench sitting next to me (with injuries).”
After seven canceled games, then losing 5 of 6 while habitually squandering leads, PFW has some swagger, and a killer instinct, again.
“I think our group really feels confident now in kind of closing out a game,” Coffman said.
PFW at Green Bay
When: 5 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: Kress Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin
TV: ESPN 3
Radio: 1380 AM
Records: PFW 6-5, 5-5 in Horizon League; Green Bay 3-11, 3-7