WATERTOWN, Wis. -- The Sabercats showed no fear against No. 1 Great Lakes tonight, losing a two-possession game in front of a packed house at MBU.
- Result: Maranatha 85-90 No. 1 Great Lakes
- Venue: Maranatha Baptist University
- Location: Watertown, Wis.
- Attendance: 402
- Record: MBU (7-10), GLCC (13-10)
Right out of the gate, the Crusaders demonstrated the athleticism and tenacity that you'd expect from a top-ranked team, but the Sabercats were unfazed. After the opening possessions, the Sabercats' defense forced the Crusaders rush their shots, keeping the game tight through the opening minutes.
Taylor Ball and Stephen Wilkerson did some noteworthy work in the first half, as Wilkerson grabbed 10 rebounds while Ball registered 13 points. Great Lakes extended the lead to nine points with around 10 minutes left, but the game began to take on a different tone when Jed Mayhak and Ball combined for seven unanswered points. Aaron Sanders would go on to cap off a 10-2 run with a three-pointer, and after a persistent first half, the Sabercats had their first lead of the game at 26-25.
From there, the Sabercats would extend their lead to six points entering the halftime break. Ball hit a three-pointer with under a minute left, and Mayhak nailed a three of his own to end the half with a surge of home-court momentum.
At halftime, the Sabercats led the top team in the nation by six points.
As it turned out, the Crusaders' tenacity would be pernicious. The Sabercats led for the majority of the second half, but the lead was never really comfortable for MBU. Mayhak was a key difference-maker in the opening stages of the second half and would eventually put up 11 points in the second half alone to round off a career-high of 16 for MBU. Ball hit his career high after the 5:00 mark, but the Crusaders had stayed close.
At the 2:36 mark, the Crusaders' persistence had finally paid off, as they took the lead away from MBU - a lead the Sabercats would never get back.
Late turnovers from MBU and clutch free-throw shooting from Great Lakes would be the eventual difference-makers, as the number one team in the country finally took home the hard-fought win.
MBU Starters: 2- Ball, 3- Mayhak, 4- Steuerwald 5- Sanders, 23- Wilkerson
"First, congratulations to Coach Westerlund," said Coach Joel Borchardt after the game. "He's got a fantastic team and they showed why they're the number one team in the nation. They did what number one teams do, and they ended up winning the game. I'm so proud of our guys tonight - playing the number one team in the nation is a tough task and they came out ready to play. They showed that they can compete at the national stage, and it's exciting to see the progress from the beginning of the season. We would've like to get the win, but we're encouraged by the efforts of the guys - all the credit goes to them and we want to keep pushing so we can be playing our best basketball at the end of the season."
- Ball: 22 PTS*, 12 REB
- Mayhak: 16 PTS*, 4 REB, 3 AST
- Sanders: 12 PTS, 7 REB
- Wilkerson: 10 PTS, 14 REB*
- MBU: shot 46.8 percent as a team
- MBU: out-rebounded GLCC 45-34
- Last year: The Crusaders won 88-75 at home
- Series: Maranatha now leads the all-time series 13-3
*Denotes career high
- Great Lakes competes in the NCCAA DII Mideast Region
- Great Lakes holds the #1 spot in the latest NCCAA DII rankings
- Great Lakes finished last year as the NCCAA DII National Runner-Up
The Sabercats will stay home for a 7:00 p.m. Parents' Night clash with Free Lutheran Bible tomorrow night. Find details at mbusabercats.com/schedule.