When I committed to the 800 Games Project, I knew that I'd want to document at least one game of my local mid-major, the IPFW Mastodons. Beginning just their eleventh season in Division I, I believe that IPFW is building a quality program, and should be very competitive in the Summit League this season.
In scanning the schedule, a mid-December home game against Dartmouth attracted my attention. I was intrigued not because this was a great rivalry game, nor one that I expected to be highly competitive, but I was interested in the apparent novelty of an Ivy League team traveling to Indiana.
In doing a bit of research on Dartmouth, I learned that while this was to be their first-ever visit to Fort Wayne, it was far from their first trip to the Hoosier State. Prior to this year's two-game swing through the state (they lost Saturday night at Notre Dame), the Big Green made eleven different appearances in Indiana between 1946 and 1997, visiting Notre Dame, Purdue, Butler, and Valparaiso each at least twice over that span. Of those eleven games, Dartmouth earned just one victory. For you basketball historians, here's a bit of trivia from that game, and from the years that followed for that evening's coaches.
On New Year's Eve, 1968, Dartmouth earned an 82-81 win at Valpo, at that time a relatively strong Division II program. Dartmouth was coached by Dave Gavitt, and Valpo was led by Gene Bartow. Just over four years later, these two coaches would meet each other again, except that the stakes would be a bit higher. In the 1973 Final Four in Saint Louis, Bartow got revenge on Gavitt, as his Memphis State Tigers beat Gavitt's Providence Friars, 98-85.
Both coaches continued on to some impressive achievements. Gavitt became one of the driving forces in the formation of the Big East Conference, and became its first Commissioner, overseeing great achievements throughout the 1980s. (I wonder what he'd think of that league today!) He was also named head coach of the 1980 Olympic team, which did not compete because of the U.S. boycott, and (for what it's worth) later led the charge for the formation of the Olympic "Dream Team" in 1992.
As for Bartow, he ended up with the unenviable task of succeeding John Wooden upon Wooden's retirement from UCLA. After just two years of struggling with highly unrealistic expectations, he left Los Angeles for Birmingham, proceeding to build a basketball program from scratch at UAB.
That's quite a lot of accomplishment from that pair of young and relatively unknown coaches competing against each other in 1968.
Circling back to the present, the Dartmouth-IPFW game featured nothing of great significance. Played before a sparse crowd of about 1,200, there were no records broken, nor likely any future NBA stars on display. There were no plays worthy of a highlight on a national network broadcast, and few that would even justify a brief showing on a local broadcast. One team had more turnovers than made baskets; the other team shot under 10% from three-point range. IPFW had one player in particular who caught my attention, but how could I spin a compelling narrative for my fellow 800GP readers from the game that I witnessed?
Then it hit me. During my research on Dartmouth College, I learned that one of the great influences of my formative years was a graduate of Dartmouth. So, I have chosen to prepare a summary of the game with the tip of my hat (preferably a tall hat with red and white stripes that I would borrow from a cat) to Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dartmouth Class of 1925, and with a very respectful nod to Frank Gaines, IPFW Class of 2013. My apologies to the memory of Mr. Geisel for any inconsistency or sloppiness in my poetic meter; I am but an amateur at this game.
He is Frank. He is Frank. Frank he is.
Frank-he-is plays for the 'Dons. He's the subject of this tale. Came to college in Fort Wayne, though he's from Fort Lauderdale
Frank-he-is, he likes to shoot. He does like to shoot the ball. He shoots it from start to end. Even if the shots do not fall.
On this night, the 'Dons would play a new team in from the East. For the game, a small crowd came. Most folks cared not in the least.
In half one, the 'Dons came out, and soon built quite a large lead. The Big Green could not compete, their coach's plan they didn't heed.
Frank-he-is shot from very near. Frank-he-is shot from very far. One time I was quite sure that he shot from there by my car.
Frank-he-is shot from the left. Frank-he-is shot from the right. I thought he wanted to be the star of the game this night.
But then two quick foul calls made Frank-he-is sit down. He went right to the bench and wore a very large frown.
At the half, the Big Green coach showed a face full with ire. His whole team could hear that their coach spoke with much fire.
"I do not like this Frank-he-is. We just have to shut him down. If we can stop this Frank-he-is we'll get a win in this town.
Guard Frank-he-is from the left. Guard Frank-he-is from the right. Keep the ball away from him. Don't let him out of your sight.
Don't let him shoot from near. Don't let him shoot from far. We must keep Frank-he-is from being this night's star."
In half two, something new. The 'Dons had a new plan. Drive the ball to the hole. Show who's the faster man.
Frank-he-is drove from the left. Frank-he-is drove from the right. He drove straight on by his man and then with the ball took flight.
A lay-up here, then one there, and then yet one lay-up more. He also made a few free throws to add further to the team score.
But the Big Green also played well, and good luck seemed on their side. For when we looked at the board, we saw that the score was tied.
As the clock counted down, as the game neared its end. Frank-he-is did not shoot, but passed it to a friend.
So now it is all said and done, and yes, his team did win the game. Frank-he-is learned that shoot or pass, he can lead his team just the same.
at IPFW 56, DARTMOUTH 51 12/13/2011
DARTMOUTH 2-7 (0-0) -- J. Golden 4-5 2-2 11; M. LaBove 1-5 0-2 2; R. Griffin 3-10 0-0 8; J. Brooks 0-0 0-0 0; J. Trotter 2-6 1-2 6; D. Rufful 5-10 2-2 15; G. Maldunas 1-7 0-0 2; M. McKearney 1-4 2-2 4; K. Crecco 0-1 0-0 0; T. Melville 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 18-50 8-12 51. IPFW 6-3 (1-1) -- J. Marlin 0-1 2-2 2; T. McCorkle 5-10 1-3 11; F. Gaines 8-18 5-6 21; J. Peckinpaugh 2-2 0-1 4; J. Edwards 3-5 2-3 8; I. McCray 0-2 1-4 1; J. Smeathers 1-3 0-0 3; M. Hines 1-4 0-0 2; M. Kibiloski 1-5 2-5 4. Totals 21-50 13-24 56.
Three-point goals: DART 7-16 (K. Crecco 0-1; J. Trotter 1-3; D. Rufful 3-4; R. Griffin 2-5; J. Golden 1-2; M. McKearney 0-1), IPFW 1-11 (J. Smeathers 1-3; B. Gaines 0-4; M. Kibiloski 0-3; J. Edwards 0-1); Rebounds: DART 30 (J. Trotter 5), IPFW 32 (T. McCorkle 8); Assists: DART 10 (R. Griffin 2), IPFW 8 (J. Marlin 4); Total Fouls -- DART 26, IPFW 16; Fouled Out: DART-G. Maldunas; IPFW-None.