Despite a career-high scoring effort from junior Kevin Harden, IPFW could not overcome a late turnover and fell 68-67 to Eastern Illinois in the final game of the Eastern Michigan “Ice Man" Classic tournament.
Harden scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, including 2-of-3 from long range. Also contributing for the Mastodons (2-3) were Frank Gaines (15 points), Mario Hines (10), Pierre Bland and Isaiah McCray (six each).
The Panthers led by 11 points midway through the opening half, but IPFW rolled off eight straight points on a tip-in by Hines, a jumper by Harden, a lay-up by Gaines, and a jumper by Hines to close the gap to three late in the opening period. Trailing 32-27, the Mastodons scored the next six points to take a one-point lead before EIU’s Alex Austin hit a jumper with 39 seconds left in the half to give the Panthers a 34-33 lead heading into the locker room.
The second half was a nip-and-tuck battle; with the largest lead gained by either team was four. The second half had 10 tie scores and 10 lead changes.
IPFW held a two-point lead with 1:22 to play after a Gaines jumper, but that lead was cut in half by a Panther free throw. The Panthers proceeded to steal the inbounds pass and get a quick lay-in from Sherman Branford, giving IPFW possession, but down one with 21 seconds remaining.
The Mastodons were able to secure an offensive rebound on a miss with five seconds left, giving IPFW possession of the ball underneath their own basket with 0.2 seconds on the clock. Needing a tip-in, a Mario Hines leaning attempt rattled just off of the iron.
Luis Jacobo pulled down a team-high seven rebounds for IPFW, while Hines grabbed six. The Mastodons outrebounded the Panthers 33 to 31.
Pierre Bland dished out four assists, while Jacobo had two blocked shots. Jacobo, Hines, and Isaiah McCray each had two steals.
IPFW, which had been plagued by poor free throw shooting in its previous game, sank 16-of-20 from the charity stripe.
The Mastodons will host Judson on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.