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Posted on Sat. Feb. 22, 2014 - 12:46 am EDT

Tough road ahead for IPFW

Mastodons end regular season away from home

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IPFW

at IUPUI

When: 2 p.m. today

Radio: 1380 AM

FORT WAYNE — Home is where the heart is. Trite but true.

“Hey, I wish we played all of our games at home,” IPFW men’s basketball coach Tony Jasick says.

But the reality is, Jasick’s Mastodons have seen the last of the Gates Center in this historic season. Now it’s the road from here on out: Games at IUPUI today and Western Illinois and Omaha next week to finish the regular season, and then the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Somewhere in all of that, the Mastodons hope to find, if not their heart, momentum and mojo. Permanently, this time.

“There is some value in hopefully learning how to prepare when you’re on the road because there is a lot of down time versus being at home and learning how to handle that, how to prepare for it,” says Jasick, whose team is 19-9 overall but just 5-7 away from Gates. “It can be a benefit.”

Especially now, with an always hostile environment waiting for them in Sioux Falls in a couple of weeks.

“We know we’re going to be playing in Sioux Falls, which supposedly is neutral, but come on. It’s in the Dakotas,” forward and leading scorer Luis Jacobo says. “You know that’s going to be a tough crowd. These next three games, we’re going to face some tough crowds. Let’s see how we deal with it.”

And how they deal with turning around a 1-3 slide in their last four games in which they have played well only in stretches.

The numbers tell the tale: In the last four games, the Mastodons, generally solid at ball security, have averaged 13 turnovers. A 40 percent-plus 3-point shooting team most of the season, they’ve shot just 28.2 percent from the arc, and 40 percent overall.

Perhaps most tellingly, their bench scoring has fallen off; in three of the last four games, they’ve gotten just 13 points per game off their bench, well below their season average.

“We’ve gotten away from what makes us good,” says Jasick, who hopes a rare full week between games has enabled the Mastodons to heal up and reach full strength. “Statistically, our numbers have been really, really good over the course of the year, but here recently at times we’ve kind of gotten away from that.

“I also think we need to obviously put more emphasis on getting some stops. We’ve done it in spurts, but especially now we’re talking about going on the road and doing it, which is an added challenge. As we look to make this last push. … I think it’s going to be critical that we shore up both ends of the floor.”

If they do, the road will do what it does: Get them moving.

“Let’s see how we do (these next three games), and then maybe we might be able to get the ball rolling once we get to Sioux Falls,” Jacobo says.

bensmith@jg.net


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