Fort Wayne, IN – The IPFW Mastodons used a combination of strong defense and sharp-shooting offense to down the Chicago State Cougars 63-50 on Wednesday evening in the Mastodons’ final non-conference game of the regular season, evening the team’s record to 9-9 in the process.
IPFW made 25-of-51 shots in the game (49.0 percent), and made 10-of-22 from long range (45.5 percent). The team also held the Cougars without a field goal for nearly the first ten minutes of the game, and just six total field goals in the first half.
“I was proud of the kids,” said head coach Chris Paul. “We shot the ball well, which is nice, but we won another basketball game because of our defense. We got off to the big lead at 17-4, and then we got into foul trouble. We had to go to the bench early and often, and it got us out of that flow. What kept us going during that time was our defense. You hold a team to 50 points, and they shoot just 30 percent from the floor, it shows what I have been telling them – you play defense, and you will win some basketball games.”
IPFW is also now at 9-9 on the season, just the second time the Mastodons have been at .500 or better halfway through the season since the team joined the ranks of NCAA Division I for the 2001-02 season.
“We sat at 3-8 earlier in the year with some tough losses,” noted Paul. “I felt like we were playing some good basketball, but we were 3-8. The kids kept working, they kept believing, they kept fighting back, and now here we are at 9-9, and in first place in the league with a 6-1 record. Now we start from scratch and head to North and South Dakota.”
Stephanie Rosado scored a game-high 19 points, hitting 9-of-11 shots from the field, the best shooting night for a Mastodon since Verea Bibbs hit 12-of-14 shots against Bowling Green in 2003. Anne Boese added 18 points for IPFW, hitting six three pointers in a game for the third time this season, which is also tied for the 11th most in a game in school history.
Jordan Zuppe nearly picked up a double-double by scoring 11 points and dishing out a game-high eight assists, as Rosado and Sydney Weinert each pulled down five rebounds. Courtney Reed and Chelsey Jackson each dished out four assists, with Jackson adding nine points in the winning effort.
“Tonight’s win was almost as important as a conference game,” said Paul. “The last thing you want to do is to not play well on a Wednesday, and then have to fly out to North Dakota on Friday. It was important for us to come out and play well and win another game at home, and carry that momentum into Fargo on Saturday.”
The win also gave IPFW seven home-court wins in nine tries this year, tying the schools Division I record for home wins in a season, which was set in 2006-07, and tied in 2007-08.
“Even more important than being at .500, is the fact that right now we are 7-2 at home,” commented the head coach. “This is tied for the most Division I wins at home, and we haven’t had a winning record at home during our time in Division I. Now we are starting to control our home environment, which for us is a step in the right direction.”
Chicago State struck first in the game with a pair of free throws a minute into the game, but would not score again for five minutes, as IPFW ran off 17 unanswered points to take a 17-2 lead six minutes into the game. In all, the Mastodon defense kept Chicago State without a field goal until the 10:09 mark of the first half, as the Cougars had made 9-of-10 free throws tries to that point.
The Cougars cut the deficit to as few as five at 25-20 with 3:38 to play in the first half before the Mastodons ended the period on a scoring flurry, out-scoring the visitors 10-4 to end the half ahead by 11 at 35-24.
“I got on them pretty good at halftime because I didn’t feel like that was the best we could play,” commented Paul. “I felt like we left too much out there in the first 20 minutes.
A 7-2 run to open the second half for IPFW put the margin into double digits, with Chicago State closing only to within a dozen the rest of the way in the 13-point IPFW win.
Courtney Waldon scored 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Chicago State, as Janay Dockery scored 11.
IPFW hits the road for their next four games, with the immediate future holding a road trip to Fargo, North Dakota for a game on Saturday, January 23 against the Bison of North Dakota State, and to Brookings, South Dakota for a match-up on January 25 against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Both games are key to the conference standings, as SDSU is 5-2 in the league, and tied for third place overall, and NDSU is 4-3 and looking to improve on their current sixth-place standing.
“For us to win this conference, we have to keep getting better,” commented Paul. “I know we have a tough stretch in heading to North and South Dakota, but they are both looking up at us right now. We need to start believing in what we are doing. We have a strong inside game, a strong outside game, we have depth, we have strong shooting, we have experience, and we have youth. I like our basketball team, and the more we win – the more we defend and keep believing in what we are doing – the more I believe that we can be dangerous.”
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