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Last updated: Thu. Aug. 14, 2014 - 01:37 am EDT

IPFW hoops in Canada: What we learned about the Mastodons

Team shows potential despite loss in finale

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

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The IPFW men's basketball team completed a six-day, three-game exhibition tour of Canada Wednesday and earned a pair of victories to open the tour.

Here is an analysis of what Mastodon fans can take away from the games:

* Sophomore point guard Mo Evans is really good when he is rested and focused. The Summit League Sixth Man of the Year had six turnovers (but also nine assists) in Wednesday's defeat when he (and a number of his teammates) appeared tired. Evans played the second most minutes (86) on the tour and will play a ton this year.

* Senior combo guard Isaiah McCray didn't shoot the ball well (5 of 22 overall and 2 of 9 from 3-point range) and he didn't distribute it well either. He battled through an injury in the first game and ended up effectively splitting minutes with newcomer redshirt junior guard Max Landis.

* In regards to Landis, he battled through a back injury to shoot the ball well Wednesday (4 of 5 overall and hit all three of his 3-pointers) and had good numbers overall. He turned the ball over once every 10 minutes of playing time, but he also hadn't played in a game in nearly 18 months. He very well may start opposite of Evans this season because the two Indianapolis natives do play well together.

* Joe Reed was magnificent Wednesday (16 points in 29 minutes) and ended the tour as the team's top rebounder (17). He played the most minutes on the tour (91) and will be on the court as both the four and the five-man (some) this year a lot. The junior forward is one of IPFW's several recruiting steals in the past several years.

* Senior wing Joe Edwards was steady overall (8 of 19 shooting for 22 points) on this tour and gave the coaches no reason not to start him at the 3-spot this season.

* The FIBA rules hindered redshirt senior post Steve Forbes' ability to dominate this week, yet he still did. He scored a team-best 61 points in 58 minutes and finished as the team's second-leading rebounder (15). Forbes also sank 13 of his 16 free throws.

* Redshirt junior wing Herbert Graham may have helped himself the most of any player outside of Landis in terms of earning playing time this upcoming season. Graham shot 8 of 14 overall (including 4 of 7 from long range). If he continues to work hard at the defensive end, he'll get on the floor this season.

* Junior college transfer Michael Calder scored 16 points on the trip, but 14 came in one game. He was too inconsistent with his play over the course of three days, but showed enough ability to earn an opportunity this season. He is better defensively at this point than offensively (he missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, but did shoot 8 of 19 overall).

* Freshman John Konchar may have gotten a possible redshirt season thrown out the window with a nice game Wednesday. This kid can play. He won't be spectacular this season, but there'll be moments where his play belies his youth and he'll help this team win games. But the dilemma becomes would you rather have a 23-year-old Konchar playing 37 minutes per game and being one of the top players in the Summit League or a 19-year-old Konchar playing 11 minutes per game this winter? With the depth of perimeter players (Evans, McCray, Edwards, Graham, Landis, Calder, and Harden) that IPFW has, I vote for the former, not the latter. But I'm not an IPFW coach. I just act like one most days.

* Like Landis, Harden showed signs of rust after sitting out most of last season with a knee injury suffered the year before. It's been a long time since Harden has played often. But one skill that he hasn't lost is the ability to rebound the basketball (13 boards in 39 minutes, third most on the team), which is sorely needed on this team, which is mediocre in that regard. Harden's experience and hustle will earn him minutes to a degree.

* Calhoun showed skill at the offensive end (5 of 12 shooting) and can pass the ball well out of the post. However, he doesn't rebound particularly well (only six boards in 39 minutes) and needs to improve defensively. His conditioning didn't look great Wednesday, so that needs to be a priority for both he and the Mastodon coaches to stay on top of. There'll be nights that Forbes is in foul trouble and Calhoun will be relied upon, so he needs to have a really, really good next two months in preparation for this season.

* Junior college transfer Jure Gunjina only played Wednesday due to an ankle injury and he wasn't 100 percent healthy in that game. Having said that, he showed ability to produce (4 of 8 shooting). He needs experience at this level and more grit in pursuit of rebounds, but the guy will contribute to a degree this year. Solid player.

Overall, this team showed nice ability to pass the ball and play together. The chemistry and culture within the program continues to be strong and this group has potential to get into the post-season for the second straight season.

Forbes and Evans can be stars in the Summit League this year, but Evans needs to play under control every single night, not just more often than not. As for Forbes, he needs to stay out of foul trouble in order that he remains on the court for 30 minutes per night. A myriad of other guys can also excel on given nights.

Two areas of concern for this team are rebounding and free throw shooting. The Mastodons have to take advantage of Forbes' and Calhoun's size and Reed's hustle and strength on the glass. And their perimeter players have to crash the boards, as well. This has to be a team effort in this regard.

Meanwhile, at the free throw line, this roster is comprised of a ton of guys that can drive the ball, as well as post threats, so it needs to set a goal of making more free throws than its opponents actually shoot.

Tdavis@news-sentinel.com


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