FOND DU LAC, Wisconsin (SabreAthletics.com) – It was a Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference showdown featuring the league's top-two teams and measured up to the billing of a hotly-contested, physical match-up, but the Marian University men's basketball team fell on the short-end as visiting Aurora University came away the victors by a score of 65-62 inside Sadoff Gymnasium, this evening, Dec. 17.
Marian (6-3, 5-1 NACC) weathered foul trouble in the first half to trail by just one going into halftime and led by as many as 3 points with under 5 minutes to go in the game. Some missed opportunities inside of 2 minutes cost the Sabres and a last-second three at the buzzer was off the mark to give the Spartans (8-3, 6-1 NACC) the narrow road win.
Drew Binversie led all Sabres with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-8 from the free throw line. Isiah Daniels added 11 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals in 20 minutes off the bench.
Aurora's Brandon Smith led all scorers with 19 points on 7-for-16 from the floor, while Kyle Pilmer added 14 points and Kalmon Stokes chipped in 13 points and 3 blocks.
Foul trouble early on put three Marian (6-3, 5-1 NACC) starters on the bench as Josh Creed, Binversie and Mike Keller picked up two fouls and managed just 8 minutes each in the first half. The bench would come up big for the Blue and White, outscoring Aurora, 15-2, in the first 20 minutes behind 7 points from Daniels and 6 points from Montrell Hobbs. Marian would go on to total a 24-5 margin in bench scoring for the game.
Carvell Oliver's 3-pointer at the end of the first half brought the Sabres to within a point at 27-26, nearly erasing a 10-point deficit from earlier in the game.
Less than 2 minutes into the second half, the Manitowoc native put the Sabres back in front with a tip-in off a missed layup to make it 30-29. It marked Marian's first lead since a 3-2 score with 18:57 left in the first half. Oliver would finish with 7 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
It was back-and-forth to the finish, but with 4:22 left in the game, a pair of Creed free throws put the Sabres in front 57-54. Just then, the Spartans put together a 10-2 run led by Gavin Walker, who contributed 6 points in the run to give his team a late lead.
Trailing 64-59, Binversie knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 2 points with 41 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, the Spartans turned the ball over and Alex Stecker had a chance to put the Sabres in front with a 3-point try from the wing, but it fell off the mark.
Aurora kept Marian in it with missed throws at the end, but the Sabres couldn't convert, watching a potential game-tying 3-pointer off the right hand of Connor Morovits miss.
It was just the third home loss for Marian in its last 27 home games dating back to the 2012-13 season and only the second loss in the last 23 home conference games – both coming at the hands of Aurora.
The Sabres will begin a 5-game road trip this weekend as they head west to the state of Washington to take on the likes of Whitworth (Dec. 21) and Whitman (Dec. 22) followed by league contests at Benedictine (Jan. 3), Edgewood (Jan. 5) and Rockford (Jan. 10).
Marian's next home game is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 13, in a rivalry match-up against Concordia Wisconsin.
(78-79), (79-80), (80-81), (82-83), (83-84),
(87-88), (89-90), (90-91), (98-99), (99-00),
NCAA Tournaments (2)