Purdue Fort Wayne surges, starts 3-0 for the first time since 1999

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Photo courtesy of Purdue Fort Wayne Athletics/Josh Gates

What do you do for a follow-up after you take down a Big East opponent on their home court? For Purdue Fort Wayne, you spend the next two games putting a beating on foes at home.

The Mastodons started on Thursday with an easy game on paper against Andrews, a school out of Michigan that plays in the USCAA. As easy as it may have seemed before the tip, the end result certainly proved that, as Purdue Fort Wayne set a single-game record for scoring at 130 and steals at 23, while holding the Cardinals to 34 points.

Sunday’s contest was slated to be a bit tougher, though, as the Mastodons played host to Texas A&M-Commerce, a team currently in the process of transitioning to Division I and taking on a grueling road schedule that included Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kentucky.

As the Aggies, Red Raiders and Wildcats did before them, Purdue Fort Wayne had little problem taming the Lions, besting them, 86-64. The victory put the Mastodons at 3-0, a feat that they hadn’t achieved since 1999.

One of the keys to PFW’s early success has clearly been the immediate impact some of the new faces have made. At the top of the list is Rasheed Bello, the arrival from the D2 ranks, who has settled into his role quite well. After dropping 15 points and grabbing six boards in the upset of the Blue Demons, the Chicago native put up 17 in 17 minutes against Andrews.

Against Texas A&M-Commerce, Bello put on a show, scoring 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting and a perfect 3-for-3 from the three-point line. As if that productivity weren’t enough, he’s also proven to be a capable ballhandler and, in turn, a perfect complement for Quentin Morton-Robertson. Over the first three games, he averaged four assists and had only turned over the ball once in that entire span.

Morton-Robertson, along with fellow holdover from last season, Anthony Roberts, have continued to make their new teammates welcome and are already key contributors in their new respective roles. For Roberts in particular, he’s already become the team’s top rebounder, including 10 caroms against the Lions on Sunday. As an extra-added bonus, the fifth-year player from Chicago has drew plenty of oohs and ahhs from the home crowd during this two-game stand thanks to his multiple dunks, all of which are highlight-reel worthy.

What likely puts a smile on head coach Jon Coffman’s face (besides the wins, of course), is his team’s ability to handle the ball and keep the turnovers at a minimum. Against the Cardinals, the Mastodons only had four turnovers, and against the Lions, there were only six miscues. By comparison, their opponents are coughing up the ball more than 20 times a game, on average.

Coffman is also probably pleased at the team’s efficiency beyond the arc so far, a signature of Purdue Fort Wayne’s offensive output during his tenure. So far, the Mastodons have shot 42.5% from three-point range, while holding their opponents to 20.8%.

This week, the Mastodons will be tested on the road at the Arizona Tip-Off in Phoenix. On Friday, PFW takes on Northern Arizona, then on Saturday, they will face either VMI or South Dakota.

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