Thankfully, this isn’t last year’s IPFW squad.
The Mastodons are coming off a school-record 25 wins, in a year in which they shot nearly 50% from the field, and nearly 40% from three-point range. But IPFW comes to Edwardsville with a new head coach, and missing three key pieces of that team.
Of course, SIUE knows a little about three-point shooting. The Cougars, 36% last year, hit 12-26 in their season-opener against Harris-Stowe, on way to posting triple-digits in an easy win.
It was so easy, it didn’t even exploit many holes.
Even in 30+ points wins, usually there’s something that doesn’t go a team’s way. Turnovers, rebounds, shooting — something. SIUE was +6 in turnovers, +14 in rebounds, shot the ball well, had 22 assists, got to the free-throw line, hit free-throws, held Harris-Stowe to 30% shooting, 23% from three-point range, forced turnovers. The only thing that you notice on the stat sheet: Harris-Stowe took 32 free throws. That’s it.
That’s probably not going to happen tonight.
IPFW does return of their stronger three-point shooters in Mo Evans. The 6’0 guard hit 45% from three-point a year ago, but averaged just nine points a game. They’ll be looking for more production out of him this year — and will move him to both the point and two-guard positions. The Mastodons will also look to Gardner-Webb transfer Max Landis, who showed his potential explosiveness in a 26-point game against DePaul last season.
Inside is where they could really challenge the Cougars, thanks to 6’9 Steve Forbes. The center averaged more than 12 points and six rebounds a game last year — despite just averaging 21 minutes a game. Fouls were an issue, so it would likely benefit SIUE to get aggressive driving the paint early.
Donivine Stewart didn’t have a great shooting night in SIUE’s win over Harris-Stowe, but he still managed to lead the way with 20 points, 10 assists, fall two rebounds short of a triple-double. I said it in our player countdown this year — he has the ability to be an all-league quality player.
If you’re going to start challenging in the OVC, you have to hold home court. While this isn’t a conference game, this is a great early benchmark game, where you get to see where you stand against an OVC-level team.
…and we just might expose a weakness or two in the Cougars. You can’t fix it until you know what they are.