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Marian Earns Upset Win Over St. Ambrose

March 07, 2012
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By Matt Bos, Media Coordinator

POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - (Box Score) Unseeded Marian (Ind.) rallied for a 75-72 overtime win over 16th-seeded St. Ambrose (Iowa) in the fifth game at the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship. The 2012 event is held at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.).

In a matchup of teams that have not won a game in the tournament since 2004, it was the Knights that came back from a 10-point deficit for the win. Aaron Evans led Marian with a game-high 21 points, 16 in the second half and overtime. Alex Sylvester added 16 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth career double-double. Jake Stafford grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out two assists.

The Knights improved to 20-10, their first 20-win season since 2004. They finished 44 percent from the field and outrebounded St. Ambrose, 41-26.

The Fighting Bees led by as much 10 in the first half before Marian rallied to get within four, 37-33, by halftime.

The second half started with a basket by Marian to cut the lead back to two points, but it was the Fighting Bees that went on a 7-0 run, making the score 44-35 with 17:28 remaining in regulation. Over the next seven minutes, the Knights methodically cut into the margin, and took their first lead after a Stafford lay-in, 49-48.

St. Ambrose answered with a 9-2 run and led 61-54 with 3:58 left in the second half but it was Marian that answered with a 6-0 run cutting the lead to 61-60 with 1:20 remaining in regulation. After a pair of free throws from Justin Blondell, Sylvester caught an inbounds pass in front of his own bench, turned and hit a three-pointer in the corner with 1.9 seconds remaining and sent the game into overtime.

Sylvester made another three-point attempt two minutes into the extra period to end a 5-0 start to overtime by Marian. The Knights had their largest lead of the game, 72-65, after a pair of free throws by Jake Sullivan with 1:53 left in overtime. SAU answered with a 5-0 run, cutting the lead to two at the 1:20 mark of the extra period.  Sylvester made one of his two free throws and St. Ambrose's final three-pointer fell short and time expired.

St. Ambrose (25-9) had its 15-game winning streak snapped after shooting 45 percent shooting from the field. Kennedy scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half. The senior went 8-for-19 from the field. Chris Donnelly had 18 points, Blondell scored 12, and Marquiz Davis finished with 10. Kennedy had a team-high seven rebounds, and Nicholas Frazier threw a game-high four assists.

Marian advances to the second round and will play the winner of the top-seeded Northwood (Fla.) and College of the Ozarks (Mo.) game Friday at 5:45 p.m. CST.