By: Sports Information Director, Luke Pattarozzi
FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) – The Marian University men's basketball team overcame a 15-point deficit to defeat Wisconsin Lutheran College in thrilling fashion, 60-59, and secure a spot in the Northern Athletics Conference tournament for the first time since 2008-09, this evening, Feb. 8.
The Sabres took their first lead of the contest at the 3:06 mark on a three-pointer by Jeff Harris and used a double-double by Mike Keller to finish off the comeback en route to the win. In a tie game on Marian's final possession, and with less than 10 seconds remaining, Keller kept the ball alive with his fourth offensive rebound and was fouled on a put-back attempt by WLC's Alex Merbach.
Keller went to the line and made the decisive free throw. A line violation negated the second attempt. Leading by one, the defense stepped up big once again, forcing Russell Strutz into a 20-foot prayer that fell short with two seconds on the clock. Keller secured the rebound and the Sabres escaped with a hard-fought home win.
MU improves to 9-13 overall, 6-8 in the NAC, while WLC falls to 5-17 (4-10 NAC).
Keller finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, going 5-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 at the free throw line. Marian's Cody Veleke led three Sabres in double-figures with 18 points on an efficient 8-for-11 from the field. Sam Koslowski added 14 in the win as well.
Leading all scorers was Merbach, who recorded a career-high 39 points on 15-for-23 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. He was the lone Warrior in double-digits.
Marian trailed by as many as 15 points at the 12:12 mark and somehow battled long enough to erase the deficit and come out on top. They withstood 22 turnovers from which Wisconsin Lutheran scored 25 points. Both teams converted 22 field goal attempts, including five three-pointers. The difference was Marian's perfect 11-for-11 display at the foul line. The Warriors were 10-for-12.
Wisconsin Lutheran dominated the first half, making all five of its three-pointers to take a 36-27 lead into the break behind 22 points from Merbach. The Sabres struggled with 14 turnovers in the opening stanza, with 18 WLC points coming off of those miscues.
The Sabres will hit the road for its final NAC contest away from home against Lakeland, who lost in double-overtime to Concordia Wisconsin tonight. Marian will play the second game of a doubleheader with the women, who tip-off at 2 p.m. Marian will play its final regular season home game against Maranatha next Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m.
(78-79), (79-80), (80-81), (82-83), (83-84),
(87-88), (89-90), (90-91), (98-99), (99-00),
NCAA Tournaments (2)