Before the season started, Purdue Fort Wayne head coach Jon Coffman said that he really liked this year’s squad, which is a mix of veterans, transfer portal acquisitions and freshmen. Five games into this campaign, it’s easy to see why.
The Mastodons once again put on a show in the Desert Division of the Arizona Tip-Off in Phoenix, dispatching Northern Arizona, 77-67, then besting South Dakota the next day, 93-81, to take the crown for that division. The wins also marked the first time in Purdue Fort Wayne has ever started 5-0 during its tenure in Division I.
The contest against the Lumberjacks saw the Mastodons do something it hadn’t done in the previous contests: turn the ball over. Purdue Fort Wayne committed an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers versus NAU and, in something that also was out of character for the Mastodons in the young campaign, the three-pointers weren’t falling, shooting only 29.2%.
However, at least one PFW player had no problem draining the threes, and that was Quention Morton-Robertson. In 32 minutes, PFW’s starting point guard scorched the Lumberjacks by going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc, part of his eye-popping 27-point performance. Anthony Roberts was also strong in the paint for the Dons, grabbing 10 boards to go along with his 13 points to complete the double-double.
Against the Yotes, the Mastodons had to contend with a hot-shooting team, as South Dakota dropped 52.7% of its shots, which included a 47.9 percent showing from three. That allowed the Yotes, who were down by as many any nine early on, to take the lead at halftime.
Purdue Fort Wayne, though, kept at it, and despite foul trouble up and down the rotation, the Mastodons shored up its shooting in the second half and thanks to a quintet of double-figures scorers in Morton-Robertson, Roberts, Rasheed Bello, Maximus Nelson and Jalen Jackson, who led the team with 19, PFW prevailed. For their efforts during the MTE, Morton-Robertson and Bello were also named to the Desert Division’s All-Tournament Team.
It’s become clear five games in that the Mastodons have a wide array of weapons available to him, although to be fair, Coffman did try to tell everyone ahead of time. Morton-Robertson and Roberts have already come out of the gate looking comfortable in their new starting roles, with Morton-Robertson in particular, looking like one of the top point guards within the Horizon League, having been named Player of this Week for his efforts.
Bello, the prized Division II transfer, and hometown kid Jackson also look as if they’ve made a seamless transition into the PFW roster. Additionally, players such as Nelson, starting forward Eric Mulder, and reigning Horizon League Freshman of the Week Corey Hadnot II have been primed to fill in at critical spots to allow the Mastodons to keep the momentum in games, even when things aren’t going as planned. Next up for Purdue Fort Wayne is a Wednesday contest against San Francisco, who played in the Cactus Division of the Arizona Tip-Off and finished third as a result of getting nipped by Grand Canyon, 76-72, before beating DePaul, 70-54. USF was slated to finish third in the WCC behind perennial powerhouses St. Mary’s and Gonzaga. The game tips at 9pm ET and will be on ESPN+.