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WINDSOR, Ont. – For much of the past six days, the IPFW men's basketball players' minds were on “fun, fun, fun,” according to first-year coach Jon Coffman. The Mastodons ventured to Canada and over the past week have spent the majority of their time paddle boarding, going up to the top of the CN Tower, soaking in the mist of Niagara Falls, and generally just bonding as a team.
“We had a great time,” Coffman said.
Mixed into those six days of fun and frolicking were three basketball games, the last being played at the University of Windsor Wednesday. And for stretches of the 89-74 loss to the host Lancers, it was evident that the IPFW players were immersed in the final hours of a working vacation.
“The purpose of this trip was not just to win basketball games,” Coffman said. “These games don't count on your record and we're eight months away from where we are ultimately playing for a conference championship.
“We were here to have a cultural experience with our guys and we maximized that.”
That included game days.
On Wednesday, Coffman had his team do something that they would never do during the regular season, and that is buss four hours to the game and arrive just prior to tip-off. He did that so the players could enjoy one last night (Tuesday evening) in Toronto.
The team had only worked out a short while since Monday and so it wasn't terribly surprising when it had difficulty finding Windsor shooters in transition (the Lancers hit 17 of their 34 attempts from long range), and turning the ball over with an uncanny frequency (IPFW had 20 turnovers, including six from sophomore point guard Mo Evans).
“We treated this a little differently,” Coffman said. “Physically, the guys were tired, and obviously your mind goes with that. But that was no excuse.”
Coffman wasn't making excuses, because Windsor did play well. However, he was delving into legitimate reasons as to why IPFW allowed a 42-40 halftime lead slip away into a 66-52 fourth quarter lead in just over 10 minutes of play.
Overall, the goals of playing some good basketball (the Mastodons won their first two games), providing playing opportunities for new players in new roles, and most importantly, giving the Mastodons a “cultural experience” were all fulfilled as the team boarded a bus Wednesday at dusk to cross back over the Ambassador Bridge and head home.
“I've got 14 happy guys,” Coffman said. “They obviously aren't happy with the end result today. But we couldn't have been happier with the planning of this. Our coaching staff was really focused on making this a great experience and the end result was what we wanted.
“They had a great time with this. We had challenging games and really had a great cultural experience.”
IPFW junior forward Joe Reed paced his team Wednesday with 16 points, while redshirt senior center Steve Forbes added 15 and a team-best six rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Max Landis chipped in an impressive 11 points in just 15 minutes, while sinking four of his five shot attempts.
Despite the inordinate amount of turnovers from Evans, he did score seven points, dish out nine assists and make a couple of steals and a couple of blocks.
I'm proud of how this team represented themselves on our tour. They were complimented constantly. #IPFW should be proud of this group.— Jon Coffman (@coachcoffman) August 14, 2014