Mastodons face uphill climb in clash with Fighting Irish
South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - The red-hot Notre Dame Fighting Irish will try to keep their momentum going as they host the IUPU-Fort Wayne Mastodons for a non-conference bout at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
IPFW will be looking to do the opposite as its 74-64 loss to Drake last time out on Dec. 8 was its second setback in a row. Tony Jasick's squad is now 5-6 overall with a 1-5 mark in road games. Only two of the Mastodons' four victories have come over Division I foes. Not including its wins over NAIA programs Rochester (73-56) and Judson (92-22), IPFW is being outscored by 4.8 ppg.
The Fighting Irish will be putting their seven-game winning streak on the line in this one. Notre Dame took down Purdue (81-68) on Saturday in Indianapolis to improve to 9-1 on the season. Mike Brey's team has picked up decisions over BYU (78-68) and Kentucky (64-50) since suffering its only setback in an overtime thriller versus Saint Joseph's. The Fighting Irish are 42-1 in their last 43 games at home and have a current 13-game home winning streak. Notre Dame is a tough team to deal with on both ends of the floor as it is averaging 74.5 ppg and only giving up 59.3 ppg.
Notre Dame has defeated IPFW in all three previous encounters between the schools, the last of which took place in the 2006-07 season.
The Mastodons were held under 40 percent shooting from the floor for the third time in four outings by Drake. They are 4-1 this season when eclipsing that mark. IPFW also hurt itself by going 17-of-30 at the charity stripe in the contest. The unit came up short despite a game-high 27-point performance by senior guard Frank Gaines and a season-high 10-point outing b Michael Kibiloski. Gaines began the season with a 28.7 ppg average through three games but was held under 20 points in six consecutive contests before finding his stroke against the Bulldogs. Senior forward Mario Hines (9.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is the second most productive player for the Mastodons.
The Fighting Irish opened up the second half of their bout with Purdue on an 18-4 run to take full control of the contest. Brey's team was aggressive as after attempting six foul shots in the opening 20 minutes, it converted 20- of-27 at the charity stripe in the second half. Jack Cooley finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. The senior forward enters Monday with team-high averages of 14.6 points and 11.1 boards per game and is tied for second in the nation with seven double-doubles. Eric Atkins continued his stellar point guard play versus Purdue with 17 points, seven assists, and three steals. The junior is tied for ninth in Division I in assists per game (7.0) after dishing out 40 helpers with only three turnovers in his last five outings. Notre Dame also has a few more capable scoring options in Jerian Grant (12.5), Garrick Sherman (10.2), and Scott Martin (8.4) along with a lock down defender in Pat Connaughton (30.7 mpg).