INDIANAPOLIS - The Marian University men's basketball team improved to 5-1 against NAIA Division II top 25-ranked opponents after a 66-57 victory over the No. 4 Grace College Lancers at the Physical Education Center on Tuesday night.
The Knights improved to 13-7 overall and 4-5 in the Mid-Central College Conference, while Grace fell to 17-3 overall and 7-2 in the MCC. All four of MU's MCC wins have been over NAIA Division II ranked opponents.
"We played very well defensively tonight," said 36th-year head coach John Grimes
. "The guys earned a very good win tonight on the strength of their defensive pressure and their ability to hit shots. This was a very good win for us."
MU received a double-double from senior Alex Sylvester
after he scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Junior Aaron Evans
led the Knights with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while sophomore Jake Stafford
hit for 14 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out two assists and had two blocked shots. Sylvester and senior Tyler Kleinschmidt
each handed out a team-high three assists.
The Lancers could not find the range in the first half as the Knights' defense stymied them into shooting just 39 percent (9-for-23) from the field. MU shot 43 percent (12-for-28) from the field in the first half and used a 9-1 run over the final three minutes of the first half to go into the locker room with a 31-25 lead.
After MU pushed the lead to eight twice in the first 2:04 of the second frame, Grace used a quick 5-0 run to cut the lead to three, 38-35, with 17:03 to go in the game. A pair of free throws cut it down to two at 39-37 with 15:28 to go before a layup by Evans made it a four-point game, 41-37, with 15:16 to go.
MU out-scored the Lancers 16-10 over the next 10 minutes, and freshman Eric Harris
put the Knights up by 10, 57-47, with a three-pointer with 5:23 to go. The lead grew to 12 before Grace knocked down a pair of three-pointers to cut it back to six, 61-55, with 1:24 on the clock. However, three free throws by Stafford and Harris pushed it back to nine. Evans converted a pair from the free throw line with 29 seconds to go to send MU to the 66-57 win and their fourth win in MCC play over a ranked opponent.
MU has defeated then-No. 12 Goshen on Jan. 3 before defeating then-No. 19 Taylor on the road on Jan. 5. The Knights followed that with an 81-67 road win at then-No. 18 Saint Francis (Ind.) on Jan. 10 before their biggest win of the season on Tuesday night over No. 4-ranked Grace College. MU also defeated then-No. 8 IU-East on Dec. 17 for its fifth win over a ranked opponent in 2011-12. MU's only defeat to a ranked foe came at then-No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan on Nov. 22, 2011.
The Knights will host Indiana Wesleyan (13-8, 5-4 MCC) on Saturday afternoon at the Physical Education Center. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. and the game will be video streamed LIVE
on the Knights Athletics Network
beginning at 2:50 p.m.