There is still quite a long way to go for IUPUI (4-8) to finish the season. However, Friday’s win in the second of the six game home stretch against St. Joseph’s, 75-55, may make the path seem a little shorter.
The Jags looked to establish a role early by getting off to a quick start. Sophomore Mitchell Patton got things started with a powerful post-up move in the paint. On the next possession, Stephen Thomas got found Alex Young down the lane for two. Freshman Lyonell Gaines started for the Jags and the young one found his spot on the glass scoring his first points of the night on a tip from a Patton miss taking the Jags up 6-0.
Gaines led all scorers with 17 points and seven rebounds, six offensive.
Summit League Player of the Week (Dec. 11), Young started a silent but deadly streak. The 6-foot-6 lefty powered a single full court fast break and found himself at the free throw line at least three times in the first half. He finished with 13 points. The last two minutes of the half Thomas scored six consecutive points from the lucky stripe, taking the Jags up 35-22 at the half.
“I don’t even judge him by field goal attempts anymore,” said Coach Todd Howard. “Just what he does as a floor general and leader—he has done a great job for us and getting guys the ball.”
The beginning of the third quarter, IUPUI continued the fast pace they left off with. Right away Gaines hit the boards again leading to a Patton basket. The Jags finished with 16 points on second chance possessions. Another offensive rebound led to a Christian Siakam score leaving the game at 48-29 within the first five minutes of the half. The senior left the game with two points in just four minutes. He also committed five fouls in the same time.
“Right now, he is just kind of a magnet and you kind of want it to go away. We can’t be the team we want to be without him. It’s going to come.”
Siakam has been held to lower point totals and playing time due to defensive struggles so far this season.
The Pumas Michael Lipton scored six points that helped cut their 21 point deficit to 11 points, 57-46 at about six minutes left. The Jags got their last power surge and in four minutes pushed the lead back up to 20 points, 68-48. The Pumas panicked on offense and the Jags forced 20 turnovers. The turnovers were exchanged for 20 points and at 1:17 gave IUPUI a 73-48 lead.
“It got out to 20 and they cut the lead to 11, but for us to push it back out to 25 is what impressed us,” said Howard.
More key fast break transition baskets came from top scorers, Thomas and Patton, both finishing with 13 points. The 20 point win has been the largest of the season since the 101-68 win over Anderson. The drastic win is motivation for the Jags as they prepare for another duel against Ball State. IUPUI was defeated in Muncie in a close rally 69-62.
“It’s a good opportunity to figure out what we did that did work and what we did that didn’t work.”
BSU has proven to be a good opponent for the Jags. The two square up Monday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.