The worst thing about a new year is that reaching heights never imagined is solely reliant on self-discipline. You will control your own reality.
In regards to IPFW, its men's basketball program is in the midst of a historic season, and the team is so far, seizing control of its destiny. The latest exhibit of that came in the form of a 65-60 victory at Bowling Green on Thursday in front of 1,282 fans.
“Winning on the road is a good thing,” Mastodon coach Tony Jasick said. “I thought our team played well enough over the course of 40 minutes to win the game. Obviously, there are stretches that we need to work on.”
Yes, there were “stretches” of concern, but more on that in a bit. First, let's analyze what went well and why this team is venturing places that no other IPFW men's basketball squad ever has before.
The Mastodons (11-5) jumped all over the Falcons (6-7) with runs of 9-0 and later 23-13 to close the first half and lead 34-21 at the intermission. Jasick's group did so behind the disciplined play of redshirt junior center Steve Forbes.
Forbes used his 295-pound body constructively and scored a team-high 15 points, which was nice, but the more significant statistic was the fact that he played 28 minutes and committed just three fouls. In 10 of the Mastodons' initial 15 games, Forbes has committed at least four fouls and fouled out of four games.
“He did a much better job of not just barreling into guys,” Jasick said. “And he had a major impact on the game as a result.”
It's been said (because it is true) that a team's offense will come and go, but defense can always be present. That was the case Thursday, as IPFW shut Bowling Green down in the first 20 minutes. The Falcons made just 6 of their first 27 shot attempts (22.2 percent) and only 40 percent of their shots in total.
IPFW was very active with its half-court pressure – as Jasick mixed his calls between man and zone. The Mastodons forced Bowling Green into 19 turnovers, while registering 15 steals.
Another positive for IPFW was the fact that it was hard to defend. Bowling Green committed 23 fouls and sent the Mastodons to the free throw line 36 times.
But in these two aforementioned areas of play – defense and free throws – this is where the difference between greatness and disappointment for this team lies.
IPFW has the ability to be a team that wins the Summit League and earns a berth into the NCAA Tournament, and that isn't hyperbole, just ask Dayton or Illinois. But it will take consistent greatness in all areas of play, not intermittent stretches.
After building a 34-21 lead with tremendous defense, IPFW allowed Bowling Green to shoot 57 percent in the second half, as it fought back to within one point with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
While clinging to a slim advantage with less than a minute to play, Forbes committed a foul, which allowed Bowling Green the opportunity to score with the clock stopped – a dream-like scenario for any trailing team.
The Mastodons can't commit these types of errors in conference play and beat the best of the Summit League.
Oh, and those abundance of free throws? Well, they are only a positive if you make them, which the Mastodons didn't.
IPFW missed 18 of those 36 free throws, which if that happens during the Summit League Tournament in March, any hope of making history will blow away in the frigid South Dakota wind.
This is the most talented basketball team ever assembled at IPFW. Its 11-5 mark ties the best in program history at the NCAA Division I level, and the win over the Falcons was the first road victory against a Mid-American Conference opponent.
This is also the deepest basketball team ever assembled at IPFW. While Falcon coach Louis Orr was forced to play five players between 31 and 37 minutes, Jasick had seven players total between 20 and 28 minutes, with senior forward Luis Jacobo on the floor for 37 minutes. The Mastodons feature so much depth, that they have really good players not even getting into games.
However, what actually is achieved by this group remains an unknown commodity. It'll take more than talent and desire in order for history to continue to be made, though those aspects help. Most importantly, it'll take self-discipline for this program to control its own destiny.