IPFW got defensive when it absolutely had to in Saturday's 77-64 Summit League men's basketball victory over Western Illinois in front of 932 fans at the Gates Sports Center.
The victory not only was historic in the long-term, but significant in the now.
The Mastodons (18-6, 6-1) have now tied the program mark for victories in a season, and the win, combined with North Dakota State's loss to Denver, has placed them in sole possession of first place in the conference.
Western Illinois (9-13, 3-4) didn't make it easy on IPFW. The Leathernecks continually made shots (until the final minutes of the game, they were shooting nearly 60 percent from the field) and with less than seven minutes remaining, trailed just 62-60.
But over the ensuing 2:30, the Leathernecks missed a shot, a free throw, fouled the shooter for a Mastodon 3-point play, and turned the ball over. All the while, IPFW got 3-point plays from Joe Reed and Joe Edwards and a pair of free throws from Mo Evans and stretched the margin to nine.
"We got some (defensive) stops," Mastodon coach Tony Jasick said. "And I also felt like our depth at the end of both halves came to light."
Luis Jacobo scored a game-high 23 points in the victory, as the senior forward hit 6-of-10 from long range. Mastodon center Steve Forbes scored 18, while Reed finished with 10. Forbes also pulled down a team-best six rebounds.
"Steve brings so much to the table," Jasick said. "That Joe Edwards 3? It was completely due to Steve Forbes' responsibility because Joe Edwards' man is basically double-teaming (Forbes) prior to the catch. Mo Evans makes a great pass and we end up sticking it."
Evans pulled down a career-high five rebounds, but also scored five points and passed for five assists.. while Pierre Bland added nine points, three assists, no turnovers in 37 minutes of running the IPFW offense.
The Mastodons held the Leathernecks without a field goal for the final 5:13 of the second half, turning a one-point lead into nine at the halftime break, while pulling down 12 offensive rebounds - eight of those in the second half.
For the game, Western Illinois shot 52.5 percent, while IPFW made 51 percent of their attempts. The Mastodons sank 11 3-point shots and outrebounded the Leathernecks 32-19 (including a 12-3 offensive advantage).
IPFW will travel to South Dakota State Thursday at 8 p.m.