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'Underrated' Notre Dame defense to try and stifle IPFW

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.

Mastodons to battle Irish on national TV

Monday, December 17, 2012 - 1:33 am

A quick glance of the stat sheet for the IPFW men’s basketball team will show you that this group is doing a lot of positive things.

The Mastodons (5-6) are outshooting their opponents from three-point range (31.5 percent to 28.4 percent), they are getting to the free throw line a lot more (279 to 220) and most impressively, they are really rebounding well (the team holds a 40-32 advantage each game).

IPFW’s next opponent has noticed those numbers, but stat sheets aside, they are also aware of how this group plays on the court.

“This is a team that gets up and down the floor quite well,” Notre Dame men’s basketball assistant coach Anthony Solomon said. “We’re going to have to do a great job of defending them.”

Solomon has had the task of preparing the scouting report for IPFW.

The Mastodons will travel to 22nd-ranked Notre Dame (9-1) today at 7 p.m. (ESPNU and 1380-AM).

As the aforementioned statistics indicate, there are several reasons as to why IPFW has been in every game that they have played so far this year. But there is also a reason as to why it is 5-6 instead of having a winning record.

“When you look at our team and our results as a whole,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “We tend to have spurts where, on the offensive end, whether it be turnovers or whether it be poor decision making with some of our shot selection, that kills us for a period of time.”

Through 11 games, the Mastodons have turned the ball over 15 more times than their opponents, and most noticeably from the most critical position on the floor.

IPFW utilizes the point guard combination of sophomore Isaiah McCray and junior Pierre Bland, who have both been prone to miscues. The duo has combined for 44 assists, but also thrown the ball away 41 times.

“You have to continue to stress the value of the basketball,” Jasick said. “We have to continue to hold our guys accountable for taking care of the basketball. We have so many new guys that we have to continue to educate them on the value of the basketball, (and) on the value of a good shot.”

The IPFW guards will face perhaps the most disciplined defensive team yet in today’s game.

The Fighting Irish easily took care of Purdue on Saturday and they did so with a stifling defense, which IPFW coach Tony Jasick is very cognizant of.

“Notre Dame doesn’t get the respect that it deserves on the defensive end,” Jasick said. “When you look at field goal percentage defense, three-point field goal percentage defense, (Notre Dame) is one of the better defensive teams, to this point, in the country.”

Irish senior center Jack Cooley concurs.

After his team limited the Boilermakers to a single basket for the initial 9:38 of the second half, Cooley was quick to praise his team.

“We’ve been underrated on defense,” Cooley said. “Now our offense is catching up to where our defense is and we’re flowing really well.”

IPFW hasn’t had its full complement of players very often this season due to a number of reasons, but is expected to have its full arsenal, including All-Summit League performer Frank Gaines, against the Irish.

"The young man, Gaines, is a really creative scorer (20 points per game),” Solomon said. “He scores in a lot of different ways. He scores in transition, he scores in half-court, and he’s capable of posting in and around the basket.”

Solomon noted that the Mastodons have a tendency to try and control the pace of play both offensively, as well as with a pressuring defense. However, Notre Dame doesn’t have any intentions of relenting to what it wants to control according to Solomon.

“What IPFW does will certainly have an effect (on the game),” Solomon said. “But when it is all said and done, we always like to say here at Notre Dame, we’re going to do what we do.”