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Mastadons looking to surprise Notre Dame

Pat Leonard | Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne had three wins last season.

The Mastadons beat Bowling Green State, Morehead State and Tri-State, going 3-25 under head coach Doug Noll.

Notre Dame hosts IPFW tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Joyce Center in the first-ever meeting between the two schools and the second of three home games to open the Irish season.

But Notre Dame knows last season’s records do not matter. The Irish only beat Harvard by seven points Friday night, and the Crimson finished last season with all of four wins.

“We’ve got to go out there and practice for two hours of intensity,” captain Jordan Cornette said after the Harvard game. “And when the next game comes on Tuesday, we have to go for 40 minutes of intensity and not take any breaks.”

Noll is 37-106 in five years as coach of IPFW, an independent school with an enrollment of 11,757. Last season, IPFW lost all of its games against notable Division-I opponents, including Butler, Iowa State, Miami (FL), Purdue and Valparaiso.

But Mastadons forward Quintin Butler, 6-foot-7, 210-pound junior, has returned to help his team achieve two-thirds of last year’s win total.

Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne lost its season opener to George Mason, 69-51, but the Mastadons won their next two against Savannah State, 71-60, and Grand Valley State, 61-54, to move their record to 2-1.

Center David Simon averaged 18.0 points and 9.8 rebounds to lead IPFW last season, but Simon has not seen the court this season. In the 6-foot-10 center’s absence, Butler leads the team in points (15.0) and rebounds (12.7) per game.

The Mastadons have three games under their belt, while Notre Dame has just one. The Irish learned Friday not to underestimate an underdog.

“You give a team a chance to get back in the game and they’re going to do it,” Irish point guard Chris Thomas said.

But Notre Dame showed glimpses against Harvard of potential to put games like tonight’s way out of reach.

Though the Irish did not find a third major scoring threat, shooting guard Chris Quinn and Thomas led the way in points (Quinn 20, Thomas 17) and minutes (Quinn 38, Thomas 39).

Quinn led all scorers and committed zero turnovers while making six steals.

Notre Dame did glean positive lessons from the closer-than-expected victory, closing out the game with poise and displaying what head coach Mike Brey preaches to his team – a high basketball IQ.

“I do like some of the things we had to do at the end of the game,” Brey said. “You can always learn from game pressure and having to deal with game situations, stuff you work on in practice but with the lights on, it’s different. That can help us.”