INDIANAPOLIS – The No. 13 Marian men’s basketball team (21-4) took down Mt. Vernon Nazarene 79-70 Saturday evening to advance to the Crossroads League Tournament Championship. The championship appearance marks the Knights’ first since the 2000-01 season.
The Knights offense started the night strong scoring the first six points of the game followed by an and-one 3-point basket from Christian Stewart. Marian continued to hold the momentum later following with a 7-0 run and widening the lead to 23-11 with 8:38 to play in the first half.
The Knights kept up the intensity for the remainder of the half on both ends of the floor, controlling the tempo and forcing Mt. Vernon turnovers. As the tide started to turn back in the Cougars’ favor with just under three minutes to go, Christian Harvey unloaded on both ends. The sophomore drained a 3-point shot, nabbed a steal from the Cougars, and then soared in for an uncontested fast break dunk. The chaotic 12 seconds gave Marian its largest lead of the half at 14.
The Knights headed to the locker room leading Mt. Vernon Nazarene 39-26. Marian outrebounded the Cougars 26-17 in the opening half and forced five turnovers off four steals. The Cougars’ turnovers turned into nine points for the Knights on the other end.
Harvey and Stewart led all scorers at the half with nine points apiece. Harvey shot an efficient 4-5 from the floor in the half.
Coming back from the break, each team attempted to gain momentum, trading baskets and stepping up the pressure on defense.
Neither team was able to put together a run until the Knights finally extended the lead to 17 with a 6-0 spurt with 6:07 remaining. The Cougars did not back down. Mt. Vernon quickly responded with a 5-0 run to bring it back to 63-51 with 3:37 to go.
Despite a response by Marian, Mt. Vernon came back with another 5-0 surge to get within 10 points with just over 2:00 remaining.
The Cougars got within seven points with under a minute to play, but clutch Stewart free throws and tough Marian defense put the game away to clinch the 79-70 semifinals victory.
The win marks the 12th straight for the Knights and moves them to 21-4 on the season. The semifinal victory moves the Knights to the Crossroads League Championship is also the first since the 2000-01 season.
Stewart led the Knights in scoring, dropping 21 points while shooting 11-13 from the free throw line down the stretch. Stewart also logged seven assists, seven rebounds, and a block. Harvey scored 14 points while energizing the offense shooting 5-9, nabbing four steals, pulling down five rebounds, and dishing out three assists.
Gavin Bizeau scored 14 points off the bench and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds notching a double-double. Cameron Wolter rounded out the Knights’ scoring efforts tallying 11 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
Marian outrebounded Mt. Vernon Nazarene 47-30 and forced eight turnovers on seven steals. The Knights were helped to 27 points off the bench and 11 points off turnovers.
With the Saturday night victory, Marian looks forward to a date with St. Francis Tuesday evening as the second-seeded Knights host the fourth-seeded Cougars at 7 p.m. on John Grimes court.