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IPFW to test itself against top league power

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North Dakota State talented, experienced

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 9:49 pm

Up next for IPFW: Thursday vs. North Dakota State

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Gates Sports Center

On the air: ESPN 1380-AM

Records: IPFW (12-5), North Dakota State (11-4)

Expected starters for the Mastodons: Steve Forbes – 6-9, redshirt junior center; Pierre Bland – 6-2, senior guard; Michael Kibiloski – 6-7, senior forward; Luis Jacobo – 6-5, senior forward; Isaiah McCray – 6-0, junior guard.

Update: IPFW will learn very quickly how good it must be to compete with the best of the Summit League this season, because the Bison just may be the best team in the conference. They have only lost once since Nov. 24 and that was a 79-62 defeat to third-ranked Ohio State. North Dakota State has notched road victories at Santa Clara and Notre Dame. IPFW is off to its best start at the NCAA Division I level and has won 6 of its past 7 games. This game will feature some of the top performers in the Summit League, as North Dakota State center Marshall Bjorklund (who had 26 against the Fighting Irish) and Mastodon big man Steve Forbes rank first and second, respectively in field goal percentage. Bison standout Taylor Braun is the leagues top scorer (18.9 points per game), while IPFW features two of the top five 3-point shooters (Mo Evans and Jacobo) in the league. The Bison are the best shooting team in the conference and rank 4th in the nation in field goal percentage. They also take care of the ball better than any Summit League team. Fort Wayne leads the conference in 3-point shooting, as well as offensive rebounding. IPFW is currently ranked 33rd in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, while North Dakota State is 9th.

Coach Tony Jasick: “I don’t know that our goal is necessarily to turn them over more than they normally do, but we definitely have to make them uncomfortable. If you allow North Dakota State to just run their stuff, to get the ball in the spots that they want to, you’ve got no chance. Statistically, that’s been proven. We have to make them uncomfortable, not allow them to get the ball in a spot where they want it, and hopefully get them to play a little bit out of system. They have really good players and they play well together. They are patient. Bjorklund is one of the best post players in the country. That’s based on what he’s done against some of the elite programs. They are old. They are experienced. They’ve been through (league play).”