FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) – A strong second half keyed a victory for the Marian University men's basketball team as it knocked off the last remaining unbeaten in the Northern Athletics Conference, Aurora University, 76-70, inside Sadoff Gymnasium, this evening, Jan. 19.
"I thought it was a very hard-fought game, challenging for both teams physically," Marian Head Coach Mark Boyle said. "It was a battle in the trenches and we were fortunate enough to come out on top."
Sam Koslowski led three Sabres in double figures as Marian outlasted the last remaining NAC unbeaten in a game that saw 11 ties and 16 lead changes. Cody Veleke added 18 points and fell one rebound shy of a double-double, while Drew Binversie chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Marian improved to 10-8 overall, 6-4 in the NAC with the win, while Aurora fell to 13-5 (8-1 NAC) with the loss.
The Sabres endured 14 first-half turnovers that translated into 18 points for the visitors, yet found themselves tied at 38-apiece after shooting 54.8 percent (17-for-31) from the field.
"We knew we came out of the first half very fortunate after withstanding 14 turnovers," Boyle said. "We knew we had to take care of the ball better."
And they did. Marian turned the ball over just six times in the second half. The Spartans went 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc and the Sabres dominated the rebounding battle, 41-32.
"Sam (Koslowski) really stepped his game up defensively and Cody's (Veleke) completeness as a player was big for us," Boyle said.
Another guy that stepped up in a big way was freshman Alex Stecker, who knocked down a three-pointer to give Marian a 65-64 lead with 5:06 remaining. After losing the lead the possession before, Stecker's shot gave the Sabres a lift and the lead in which they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Binversie's double-double and five points off the bench from Brad Koth also proved clutch by two more freshmen down the stretch.
"Our freshmen do not play like freshmen," Boyle said. "They have been consistent contributors this season and have come up big so many times for use this year."
The win over Aurora marks the second time this season Marian has handed a NAC South unbeaten its first conference loss of the year. Earlier this season, the Sabres gave 3-0 Rockford its first league defeat of the year.
"This win gives us real confidence to build on after playing a quality opponent in a very difficult week," Boyle said after his team went 2-1, including a win at Maranatha and a narrow loss on the road to Concordia Wisconsin.
Next up for the Sabres will be another tough opponent in MSOE, which has won four straight and sits at 7-2 in the conference. One of those losses was to Marian back on Dec. 5, in Milwaukee. Both teams will square off once more in the regular season this Wednesday, Jan. 23. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside Sadoff Gymnasium.