It’s a bittersweet year for the IUPUI Jaguars basketball teams. The women’s team is enjoying one of its best seasons in years while the men’s team is having its most difficult since going D-I. The men dropped a road game tonight at North Dakota State and the women’s team avenged an earlier loss today, throttling the Bison 57-40 in the Jungle. The win gives the Jags a 9-3 conference record and are now 16-9 overall.
What’s getting to be more and more impressive with the women’s team is they’re sharing the “hero” status. Thursday night, Katie Comello shoots five three-pointers to ignite the Jags offense. Today, Dawn Luster comes off the bench and torches North Dakota State for 10 points and six assists. Even more impressive, the Jags out rebounded the Bison 48-29. I’m no basketball genius, but I’ve always said rebounding leads to victories.
One Step Closer.
Of equal import to the Jags win today is third-place South Dakota lost at Ft. Wayne this afternoon, 71-64. The good part? IUPUI needs just one more conference win to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Summit League Conference Championship Tournament. The scary part? Ft. Wayne is surging, winning three in a row to move into a tie for third place with South Dakota. IUPUI’s final game of the season is at home against Ft. Wayne. Depending on how the Jags perform on their final road trip this week against South Dakota and Kansas City, it may not matter.
IUPUI’s SID John Berry told me before the game the players circled this game on their calendars and were looking forward to this game all season. Seems odd the team would be fixated on a game against a seventh place team, fresh off beating No. 1 South Dakota State two nights prior. Turns out the intensity was ratcheted up, thanks to the Jags losing at North Dakota State 71-68 on Jan. 17 in a game marred by a questionable foul late in the game.
“Neutral” Site, My Ass!
Personally, I was worried about a letdown after the big win Thursday night. Despite the slow start (which concerns me, moving forward), the Jags have been a second-half team the last two games. I like their late-game intensity, but I worry about the lack of early offensive output when they go to Sioux Falls for the tournament. Even though it’s classified as a “neutral” site, the three Dakota teams will enjoy playing in front of their home fans more than any other teams in the conference. In other words, Neutral Site, my ass!
The good news for the Jags, though, is they’re playing some of their best basketball of the season at the right time. They’re on a five-game winning streak and have a chance to atone for laying an egg in that embarrassing home loss to South Dakota last month when they travel to Vermillion, S.D. on Thursday. Win that game, and you’ve all but punched your ticket for the No. 2 seed.
On the Verge of Something Special.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but with four games remaining, the Jags are on the precipice of doing something special. At 16-9, they are one win shy of equalling their mark for most wins as a Division I program. The women’s team won 17 games twice: once in 2005-06 (17-11) and again in 2007-08 (17-16).
More importantly, they still have a chance to win the Summit League regular season championship. If South Dakota State drops either or both of their remaining games (vs. ONU, at NDSU) and the Jags win their four remaining games, the title comes to Indianapolis by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker.
Is it a longshot? Well, there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. Before we worry about that, the first step is to win Thursday’s game at South Dakota.