‘’Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons take on the UNLV Runnin' Rebels during a basketball game at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Richard Brian @vegasphotograph‘’
When the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons tipped off their season at UNLV in Las Vegas, the Mastodons were curious how so many newcomers would play in their first D-I experience, but also who might pick up some of the scoring load left behind when John Konchar and Kason Harrell graduated on to the pro ranks.
They got their answers. And it depends which half you watched as to how you feel about those answers.
Purdue Fort Wayne played solid in the opening minutes after starting the five most experienced players. One of them, Brian Patrick, was appearing for the first time as a Mastodon after sitting out last season per NCAA rules after transferring from Kansas State.
PFW led 17-14 about midway thru the first half before a stretch where UNLV stripped the game away, outscoring the ‘Dons 25-6 and taking a 39-23 lead into halftime.
Part of the momentum swing was foul trouble, with Patrick picking up two in the first eight minutes and Cameron Benford coming off the bench and being whistled twice in under one minute.
Not having the guy you can just give the ball to and have him make a play was evident during the dry spell. Matt Holba is a nice shooter, but rarely is going to create his own shot.
The Mastodons settled for way too many threes without attacking the defense in the half. They finished the first half just 1-14 in 3-point field goal attempts.
The second half showcased what this team is capable of being. A defensive hawk in guard Demierre Black, a junior transfer from Roane  State, and an electric offensive player in sophomore Jarred Godfrey, who finished with a career-high 24 points.
This team will improve. They will get better because so many minutes were played by freshman or transfers. Tionne Rollins, Deonte Billups, Patrick and Black all played and most played heavy minutes.
The biggest area the Dons need to improve is in the post. PFW was out-rebounded 43-19.  There was no post threat to score. No need to double-team. Those things (in the recent past) have led to balance and high-percentage three-pointers.  The Mastodons needs it. A big man that can attack down low to command a double-team would be huge for this team with numerous outside shooters.
The Mastodons almost played two unique games in the two halves of their opener. Outscored 39-23 in the first, but winning the second 48-47.
Stopping the dribble-drive, rebounding, and getting more experience for the talented group of newcomers could make this a very good team in March.
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