IPFW's season has really been like a rollercoaster, just without so many ups and with downs that would plummet a ride at Six Flags into the core of the earth.
They had a chance to change that Sunday night (November 19) when they hosted Indiana State, themselves just coming off a stiff loss at the hands of IU. But instead, they couldn't keep up the momentum of a monumental comeback and let their weaknesses leak out in a 67-61 loss.
IPFW had a hold of things early, going up 13-8 with a lot of momentum on a Tyler Best to Quintin Carothers back door play that led to a bigtime dunk. They pulled ahead again (and for the last time) on a DeWitt Scott three-pointer midway through the first half. And then they saw setback after setback kill most of their hopes before the halftime buzzer even sounded.
But after that buzzer is when the Mastodons showed that afformentioned strength by slashing away at an Indiana State lead that had grown to 15 in the second half.
After slashing away at that lead, IPFW pulled within nine points on one of two late Pat Lepper three-pointers.
They kept chipping away until about the three and a half minute mark when they let their adrenaline die during a media time out, a critical and infant mistake for a team searching for stability. Senior Tyler Best, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, highlighted that lack of energy by missing a wide open layup just after the timeout. A minute later, Trent Wurtz put down a dunk for Indiana State that completely took IPFW out of the game emotionally.
And instead of trying to change that, they let backfiring situations get to them moments later when Wurtz and Carouthers were both forced to come out of the game (Wurtz for bleeding, Caruothers for having blood on his jersey). Coach Dane Fife spent half the time yelling at the trainer and the other half complaining to the referees, which is only going to (if anything) take you furhur out of control of the game.
When Carouthers did come back in the game a minute and a half (or so) later wearing #52, it was almost as if he had lost his mojo along with his usual jersey. His only offensive play of note was a sloppy turnover that was only part of what cost IPFW down the stretch. Carouthers led IPFW with 14 points, but had 12 of them in the first half.
ISU even shot free throws in a fashion that can nearly be descirbed at horrific down the stretch. The Sycamores missed 7 of their last 10 free throws in the game, including a stretch missing 5-of-6 in the final minute all while leading 64-58. And IPFW did nothing.
Instead, they tried too hard to play in the post, an obvious Mastodon weakness. Despite solid second half play from Best and Jaraun Burrows, who totalled 14 rebound and 20 points as a pair, the bigs just did not seem as focused and controlled. The Mastodons also shot too many three-pointers (7-for-25 in the game), while ISU shot only two long range shots in the second half. Strike three? The Mastodons did not push the ball on transition and played half court offense way too much.
And oh yeah, senior captain Justin Hawkins played just 12 minutes in the entire game including sitting the whole second half.
If anything, IPFW displayed immaturity by going away from their strengths. And that, above all else, is likely what cost them an important game.