There are worse ways to raise the curtain.
In the Summit League opener for both schools, IPFW used a sparkling first half to build a seven-point halftime, then answered multiple challenges in the second half with ball-hawking defense and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to punch out preseason conference favorite North Dakota State, 82-71, in the Gates Center on Thursday.
The Mastodons (13-5, 1-0) built a 38-31 halftime lead off 17-2 run in the first half, then kept the Bison (12-5, 0-1) at arm's length the rest of the way. IPFW still led 59-51 with 7:47 to play when a three by Taylor Braun and a bucket and free throw by Lawrence Alexander trimmed it to 62-59 with 5:27 showing.
But Pierre Bland, big on both ends all night, answered by banking in a three from straightaway, Joe Reed cashed a bucket and free throw and Bland put back a transition miss off a Mo Evans steal, and the Mastodons the lead was back to 70-61 with 3:45 showing.
It proved enough.
The Mastodons put four players in double figures, led by Luis Jacobo with 20. They outscored the Bison 29-5 off the bench and forced 15 turnovers, out of which they outscored the Bison 24-10. And when the game was on the line, they secured from the free throw line, where they were 20-of-21.