AURORA, Ill. (SabreAthletics.com) – Sam Koslowski led the Marian University men's basketball team with 24 points in its first 100-point game since 1990, but it wasn't enough as host Aurora University won the battle of the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference's best and handed the Sabres their first conference loss with a 106-101 victory inside Thornton Gymnasium, this evening, Dec. 20.
Both teams shot better than 56 percent as the Sabres went 34-for-60 (56.7 percent) and the Spartans turned in a remarkable 61.7 percent (37-for-60) performance from the field. The first half witnessed 10 lead changes, but the Spartans pulled away with a 10-point halftime lead. Aurora led by as many as 17 points in the second half and hung on despite a Marian run that cut the deficit to 102-101 in the waning seconds.
Aurora's Scott Laskowski registered 26 points in 26 minutes off the bench to lead all scorers and six Spartans in double figures. Drew Binversie added 20 points for the Sabres, followed by 13 apiece by Cody Veleke and Josh Creed, who recorded a career-high in 21 minutes off the bench.
Marian dropped to 7-4 overall, 6-1 in the NACC after falling for the first time in seven games. Aurora improved to 9-3 (6-1 NACC) to move into a first-place tie in the league standings.
The Spartans shot nearly 70 percent in the first half as they went a blistering 23-for-33 from the field, including 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. All 10 lead changes occurred in the first half, the final one following a 28-27 Marian lead thanks to back-to-back three's by Brad Koth with 8:58 remaining.
AU's Tyler Hall would answer with a made jumper to spark a 14-4 run to make the score 41-32 with 4:56 remaining in the opening stanza. The Spartan lead would reach as many as 12 points before a pair of made free throws by Creed settled the first half to a 55-45 score.
The Sabres came into the game allowing just 64.8 points per NACC contest and nearly saw Aurora reach that mark in the first 20 minutes.
Marian would cut the deficit to five points nearly six minutes into the second half before Aurora went on a run that pushed the advantage to 17 points at 86-69 on a Laskowski three at the 7:23 mark.
Every Marian basket seemed to have an Aurora answer until the final four minutes of play when the Sabres cut the deficit to single digits. Then, trailing 99-90 with just 1:30 remaining, Koslowski sparked a comeback after converting all three free throws on a foul behind the arc. Koslowski would get three more on a dial from long-distance to make it 100-96, followed by a Binversie three-point play, and all the sudden it was a one point game with 33 seconds left.
The Spartans would hit all six of their free throws from then on to seal the win. Aurora won the points in the paint battle with a 42-32 advantage and received a balanced effort with six players in double figures. Brandon Smith added 19 points, while Tyler Hall chipped in 17.
The Sabres were outrebounded, 33-23, in the game that saw far fewer rebounding opportunities from the 38.2 they were averaging entering the night.
The 101-point output for Marian was the most since a 106-86 thumping of Cardinal Stritch in the Lake Michigan Conference semifinal all the way back on Feb. 22, 1990. The Sabres allowed more than 100 points for the first time since Nov. 30, 2000 in a 102-73 loss to Barat College (Ill.).
Both teams will meet once more in the regular season come Feb. 8, in Fond du Lac.
Marian will have the next two weeks to regroup before jumping back into conference play with a home game against Benedictine Saturday, Jan. 4. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.