FORT WAYNE — The last 40 minutes for Amanda Hyde in the Gates Center were typically peerless Saturday afternoon: 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal.
But it was the Five Minutes of the Freshman that doomed visiting Omaha on Senior Day at IPFW.
Ariana Simmons scored 13 points in those five minutes – there was a 3-pointer then a layup then another 3 then another 3 and then a layup – and when she was finished, so were the visitors.
A tie game had become a 10-point lead for the Mastodons with 6:31 to play in the first half, and they never took a backward glance in running the Mavericks out of the building 89-76.
“I was just hustling and making sure everybody was where we were supposed to be and trying to get us back into it,” Simmons said.
IPFW coach Chris Paul saw more than that.
“Tonight, she didn’t look like a freshman,” he said.
And the Mastodons (15-13, 8-6 Summit League) didn’t look anything the team that came into this final homestand off two double-digit losses on the road.
In winning their third straight, Haley Seibert led the Mastodons with 23, Simmons finished with 22 plus five rebounds, two blocks and a steal, and senior Rachel Mauk added 12 more. It put a gaudy bow on Senior Day, and, if South Dakota State beats South Dakota today, will lock up the No. 3 seed in The Summit League tournament to boot.
“The past three games, I think I’ve said it multiple times: We had a really hard road trip our last road trip, and we sat down and as a team we said, ‘We’re gonna figure this out,’ ” Hyde said. “And we battled our last three games, and we’ve been shooting the ball well and we shot the ball well again tonight.”
The Mastodons won this one largely by drowning Omaha beneath a torrent of 3s, knocking down 14 of 23 and shredding it from the arc in the first half particularly, hitting 9 of 16 to reach halftime with a 47-31 lead that never got much smaller.
“We feed off each other, and so when one person gets going it definitely a cumulative effect,” Hyde said. “It just makes us so hard to guard.”
The Mastodons outscored Omaha 22-7 on second-chance points and a staggering 47-5 off the bench, and they locked it up at the free-throw line, , hitting 23 of 26 for the game.
“I was very proud of this whole homestand,” Paul said. “We knew we were coming off a very difficult loss to Denver, and we needed these games.’s I was proud of how hard we played and how we played as a team.
“I look down here (on the stat sheet) and I see 20 assists. That means that we were playing pretty unselfish basketball. We were moving around, we were trusting each other and I’m just proud of how far we’ve come.”