Five things to know about Kentucky basketball’s Wednesday night opponent, Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, or better known as the Fort Wayne Mastodons:
1. Fort Wayne upset then No. 3-ranked Indiana exactly one year ago
The fact that there were more Indiana fans than Fort Wayne fans in Fort Wayne’s home arena didn’t deter the Mastodons from pulling a 71-68 overtime upset over the Hoosiers on Nov. 22, 2016.
Indiana was fresh off a win over then No. 3-ranked Kansas, but Tom Crean’s team couldn’t handle Fort Wayne 6-foot-5 sophomore John Konchar who scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished five assists.
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By season’s end, Crean was out of a job and Fort Wayne failed to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Mastodons showed they were fully capable of beating a Power 5 conference team.
By the way, the Fort Wayne News Sentinel has done a series on the team’s preparations for Kentucky.
2. Konchar is considered a sleeper NBA prospect
Just 6-4 and 165 pounds coming out of high school in West Chicago, Illinois, Konchar considered walking on at Notre Dame but was steered by the Irish coaches to Fort Wayne, where he redshirted his first season and started putting on pounds. Konchar is now 6-6, 215.
Before the Indiana game last year, Konchar scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 92-83 loss at Arkansas. He finished the year averaging 14.9 points and 8.7 rebounds after averaging 13 points and 9.2 rebounds as a redshirt freshman in 2015-16.
So far this season, Konchar is averaging 11.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He has produced two double-doubles in IPFW’s first four games -- 12 points and 10 rebounds against Oakland and 18 points and 12 rebounds against Delaware State.
Last time out, Konchar grabbed 16 rebounds in Fort Wayne’s win over UIC, though he made just one of 10 shots. After shooting 63.7 percent from the floor last year, Konchar is shooting just 39.5 percent so far this year.
Wrote draft analyst Jonathan Givony of ESPN in October: “Konchar has clearly worked hard on his frame and has become a much better athlete in turn. He is quick off his feet, regularly playing above the rim on both ends of the floor, and has a quick first step that he can utilize to get into the paint on straight-line drives, including long, rangy strides going left or right.”
3. Fort Wayne is 3-1 so far this season
The Mastodons lost at Oakland 85-71 to start the season, but have rebounded with wins over Defiance (114-59), Delaware State (85-71) and at UIC (67-51). Fort Wayne was tied with UIC 25-25 at the half before taking control in the final 20 minutes.
Bryson Scott, a 6-1 guard from Fort Wayne who transferred from Purdue, is the team’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game. Scott scored 31 in the loss at Oakland. He added 21 against Defiance, 17 against Delaware State and 19 versus UIC.
The Mastodons have not shot particularly well. They made just 38.2 percent of their field goals in the loss to Oakland. After shooting 59.5 percent against Defiance, they shot 41.8 vs. Delaware State and 32.3 percent against UIC.
On the flip side, opponents are shooting just 39.7 percent against Fort Wayne. They are shooting just 30.1 percent from three-point range.
Ken Pomeroy ranks Fort Wayne No. 153 overall with an adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of 143 and an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of 154.
4. Jon Coffman is in his fourth year as IPFW coach
My colleague Jerry Tipton wrote about Coffman and his wife, Tracy, who is the head softball coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Now age 44, Jon Coffman was a point guard at Washinton and Lee before getting into coaching. He was an assistant at the College of Charleston, Stetson and Colgate before joining Tony Jasick’s staff at IPFW in 2011. When Jasick left for Jacksonville in 2014, Coffman was promoted to head coach.
His first Fort Wayne team went 16-15. The Mastodons improved to 23-8 and made th NIT in 2015-16. They were 20-13 last season. After a 3-1 start in the Summit League, the Mastodons lost five of their next seven games and finished 8-8 in the league.
Street and Smith’s pre-season yearbook picked Fort Wayne to finish fifth in the Summit League behind South Dakota, South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Denver.
5. The Mastodons are another team that loves the three-pointer
Like Troy, which lost to Kentucky 70-62 on Monday night, Fort Wayne takes a lot of three-pointers. The Mastodons are averaging 29.3 three-point shots per game, making an average of 11.3.
That puts Fort Wayne in a tie for 22nd nationally in three-pointers made per game.
Scott has made seven of his 24 three-point attempts. Kason Harrell has made 11 of his 28 three-point attempts for 39.3 percent. Matt Weir has made seven of 14 threes for 50 percent. Konchar is five-of-15 from behind the arc.
Fort Wayne was just eight-of-28 from three in the win at UIC last Saturday. But they hit 17 of 39 threes in the home win over Delaware State last Wednesday.
FORT WAYNE AT KENTUCKY BASKETBALL
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington
TV: SEC Network with Richard Cross, Dane Bradshaw and Stormy Buanontony
Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt