In a world full of uncertainties in what has been a tumultuous 2020, one fact is certain.
The No. 3 ranked IWU Wildcats are a dominant force, and they showcased that again on Wednesday night in a 112-60 rout of Crossroads League rival Goshen.
With the victory, the Wildcats improved to 10-0 overall and 3-0 in league play, continuing their best start to a season since the 2014-2015 campaign, when they started 15-0. Additionally, the Wildcats scored over 100 points for the seventh time this season.
Offensively, the Wildcats were nearly flawless, unselfishly sharing the basketball and knocking down shots from all over the floor. For the game, IWU shot an incredible 70.3 percent from the field, their best shooting performance since 1995.
On defense, despite an empty arena and a large lead for most of the evening, the Wildcats never relented, forcing 20 Goshen turnovers, and holding the Maple Leafs to just 43.6 percent shooting from the field.
“It was fun to watch. Guys were sharing the basketball, the ball was really moving, and defensively, I thought we were connected,” IWU Head Coach Greg Tonagel said. “We were just playing together. To play with a lead like that is not easy, because there is a lot of reason for letdown, and nobody is in the crowd. To give that kind of effort for 40 minutes I think says a lot about these guys.”
After missing their first shot of the contest, Seth Maxwell scored a bucket in the paint, and from that moment on, the Wildcats never trailed. In the first five minutes, the Wildcats knocked down seven of their first eight shots and built a double-digit advantage they would not relinquish.
Goshen did not reach double digits until the 11:29 mark of the first half, and by then, the Wildcats were fully in control. IWU took a 61-32 lead into the halftime break and already had three double-digit scorers.
When armed with a big lead, it can be tough for teams to stay locked and focused. However, the Wildcats stayed grounded and within themselves, continuing to implement their game plan and perform at a high level.
“It’s a game within a game,” Tonagel said. “We had certain goals that we wanted to accomplish. One was [recording] 20 or more assists, and we did that. And we tried to hold them to 42 percent from the field, and we were one stop short of that. But it gave our guys something to focus on throughout the game I think.”
In the second half, IWU’s lead never fell below 27 points, and they held Goshen to just 28 points in the final 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats’ offense continued to hum, as the team scored 51 points and shot a remarkable 18-of-25 (72 percent) in the second half.
Five players finished in double figures, including Kyle Mangas, who led the Wildcats with 30 points on 15-of-16 shooting from the floor. Through 10 games, Mangas is averaging 31.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, while shooting 64 percent from the field.
Dylan Alderson scored 20 points on eight-of-10 shooting, while freshman Tayson Parker collected 17 points off the bench. Maxwell added 16 points and seven rebounds, while Michael Thompson III rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12.
“Everybody we put in raised their level of play,” Tonagel said. “We were able to extend our bench, which is what we need to do. We cannot just play seven or eight guys, and I cannot play Kyle Mangas 39 minutes. I’ve got to be able to trust other guys. Tonight was a step forward in getting guys more opportunities on the floor.”
With an ever-changing schedule and the possibility that the plug could be pulled at any time, the Wildcats have thrived, relying on their tight-knit bond and their desire to be great. Tonagel hopes that his group will continue to play up to their potential as the season progresses.
“It’s becoming the new normal, and you just have to be very adaptable and, on your toes,” Tonagel said. “We are just thankful to be playing. When something is taken from you, you realize the value of it. I think every time we step on the floor— we are going to give it our all.”