LISLE, Ill. (SabreAthletics.com) – Make it 11 wins in its last 12 games and an 11-1 start in Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference play after the Marian University men's basketball team took down another formidable league opponent, this time by coming back from 11 points down to stun host Benedictine University, 81-75, inside the Rice Center, this evening, Jan. 18.
The Sabres (12-4, 11-1 NACC) trailed by as many as 11 points with five minutes left in the first half, but were able to tie the game at 39 apiece going into halftime. The Eagles (7-10, 5-7 NACC) led by single digits for most of the second half, but in the waning minutes, Jeff Harris, Drew Binversie and company staged a comeback that fortified the squad's dominance in league play of late.
Harris led the way with a season-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench, while Binversie added 21 points two rebounds and four assists, going 11-for-13 at the free throw line. Senior Sam Koslowski chipped in 13 points, four rebounds and two assists as well.
"We outlasted them," Head Coach Mark Boyle said. "We got behind, but we stayed right there. When it came down to the end, we made the right plays. It was a gritty effort on our part."
Other than the first bucket of the second half to break a 39-all tie, the Eagles quickly regained the lead and held it until inside of two minutes to go. Koslowski, who gave the Sabres the brief lead at the outset of the half, gave them their final lead for good, converting two free throws with 1:48 to go following a key rebound after a Tim McGinty missed three-pointer. McGinty finished with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds.
Koslowski's free throws followed up a three-point play by Binversie on the previous Marian possession that tied the game at 71-71. The Sabres would complete a 7-0 run to take a 75-71 lead when senior Cody Veleke knocked down a jumper in the paint with 1:29 to go.
After two McGinty free throws brought the Marian lead back down to two, Binversie found Harris, who drained a cold-blooded three to make it a five-point game with just 35 seconds to go. It proved too much for Benedictine to overcome as it was stunned by a resilient Marian squad.
"Benedictine played well," Boyle said. "It was a hard-fought battle and we had to work our tails off to win this game. It came down to the last couple of minutes and Jeff and Drew played really well down the stretch."
Boyle went on to say that it wasn't one of their best defensive efforts, evidenced by Benedictine's 33-18 dominance on the glass, in addition to, a 48.1 percent (25-for-52) shooting performance – including a 51.9 percent first-half display.
"We were really unselfish with the ball and guys were good about getting the right guys open to make plays," Boyle added. "It was a real team effort to get it to that point."
The Sabres shot an impressive 57.8 percent (26-for-45) from the field, including an efficient 7-for-10 from downtown and 22-for-28 from the foul line in the win. Alex Stecker and Binversie each finished with four assists as Marian dished out 15 helpers on its 26 baskets in all.
The Sabres committed just 10 turnovers, while causing 15 and turning those Eagle miscues into 22 points. The win resulted in the second season sweep for the Sabres this season after an 82-74 win over Benedictine back on Jan. 4. The Sabres have also swept Rockford in both regular season meetings this year.
Marian won three games in the same week for the second time this season, defeating MSOE, Wisconsin Lutheran and Rockford during a stretch that took place between Dec. 3-7.
The Sabres will have another quick turnaround as they head to Dunbar, Wis. Monday, Jan. 20, and take on Northland International University in the non-conference finale. Tip-off is set for 6 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)