To win at defending Hoirizon League champion Valparaiso a basketball team has to play to near perfection. What it can't afford is to go cold offensively, which is what eventually stymied IPFW in its men's basketball contest on Wednesday.
The Mastodons went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal during the second half and fell to the host Crusaders 63-52.
Frank Gaines scored a team-high 19 points, while connecting on 5-of-14 shots, and notched a career mark of four steals.
IPFW junior forward Luis Jacobo added eight points, while junior guards Kevin Harden and Pierre Bland each pulled down six rebounds to lead the team, which outrebounded Valparaiso 37 to 35.\
Valparaiso jumped to a lead early, but could not pull ahead by more than four at any point early in the half, before IPFW took its first lead of the game with just under eight minutes to play when Gaines drained a three-pointer, forcing a Crusader timeout.
IPFW's lead grew to as many as three on the fourth and final Gaines three-pointer, giving the Mastodons a 26-23 lead with six minutes to play, as the Crusaders closed the half on a 12-6 run to take a three-point, 35-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half the Mastodons closed the gap to two at 38-36 on an athletic Jacobo lay-in two minutes into the stanza, and that would be the last field goal IPFW would hit for until the 4:02 mark in the game. By then, the Crusaders had outscored IPFW 18-8 before Harden drained a fastbreak jumper.
IPFW would climb to within as few as nine, but could not get closer as the Crusaders iced the game by making 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch in the Crusader win.
IPFW hit 16-of-51 shots from the field in the game (31.4 percent), including 4-of-20 in the second half, while converting on 5-of-12 from long range (41.7 percent) and 15-of-20 (75 percent) from the charity stripe.
The Mastodons will travel to Drake on Saturday at 8 p.m.