INDIANAPOLIS – A 4-10 start isn’t exactly ideal, but for IUPUI and first-year head coach Jason Gardner, it was part of the process. Each game was a step to get ready for conference play. That process seemed to pay off for IUPUI after they defeated IPFW 63-58 in their Summit League opener Sunday night.
IUPUI often struggled through first halves early in the season, but a strong close to the first half against IPFW gave them a nine-point halftime lead.
Down 22-19 with 8:35 left in the half, Khufu Najee hit a jumper, then grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession before Elijah Ray’s layup put them up 23-22. After a TV timeout, IPFW missed shots on three consecutive possessions while IUPUI scored three straight times. Najee’s layup with 4:01 left extended the IUPUI lead to 29-22. Joe Edward’s ended a five-minute scoring drought for IPFW with a free throw with 3:18 to go, but IUPUI scored the final five points of the half to take a 34-25 lead.
The lead grew to 43-29 for IUPUI after D.J. McCall’s dunk with 15:29 to go in the game, but they struggled to score the rest of the way. A nearly five-minute scoreless stretch allowed IPFW to pull within four points with 11:30 to go, but Marcellus Barksdale wouldn’t let this one slip away for IUPUI. His jumper with 10:43 to go ended a 10-0 IPFW run. After IPFW pulled within a point with 7:21 left, Barksdale hit a 3-pointer to go back up four. After another three-minute scoreless stretch, IPFW got within two points, 56-54, but Barksdale again answered with a three-point play.
Up 59-54 with 34 seconds to go, it came down to free throws and DavRon Williams and Barksdale knocked down all four to close out the game.
Barksdale led the Jaguars with 19 points on 10 shots, but wasn’t the only one with an efficient shooting night. Aaron Brennan added 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, Williams scored eight points while going 3-for-4 from the floor and Ray added six points on 3-for-6 shooting. IUPUI shot just 1-for-12 from behind the 3-point line, but shot 58 percent inside the line and knocked down 10 of their 11 free throw attempts to make up for it.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic for IUPUI was their turnovers. They ranked 334th in the country coming into Sunday’s game with 16.2 turnovers per game, but turned the ball over just seven times against IPFW.
Since their six-game losing streak earlier in the season, the Jaguars have now won three of their last five games and ended a four-game losing streak to IPFW.
IUPUI will now travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the final game in their five-game road trip as they take on Oral Roberts on Wednesday.