SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Five players scored double figures and the Marian men’s basketball team opened the NAIA Men’s Basketball DII National Championship Tournament with an 83-59 win over Madonna Thursday afternoon at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Knights are 26-7 overall with the win.
Both teams settled in quickly on the offensive end and Marian found success beyond the arc early. Three 3-pointers from Wes Stowers, TJ Henderson and Sterling Brown helped the Knights to a 16-9 lead five minutes into the game. By the 11 minute mark, Henderson had already poured in eight points and the Knights were 7-for-11 from the field, but Madonna refused to go away. The Knights led 23-19 and the Crusaders put together a 7-2 run to take a 26-25 lead with 7:43 to play.
However, a 3-pointer from Stowers with 3:03 to play put the Knights up 32-30 and it was the start of a strong finish to the first 20 minutes. Cameron Wolter made his presence felt down low, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds on one possession before a put back, and the Knights took a 40-34 advantage into the halftime locker room.
Marian took advantage of eight Madonna turnovers in the half, scoring 14 points off of them, while Madonna scored just two off of three Marian turnovers. Henderson finished the half with 12 points, while Stowers added 10. The score was tied six times in the half and the lead changed hands five times.
The second half was a different story though, as Marian never trailed again. Reginald Kissoonlal opened the half with a fade away jumper before blocking two shots on the defensive end, and a Sterling Brown 3-pointer with 18 minutes to play put the Knights up by 13. Madonna hung around for the next seven minutes and wouldn’t allow Marian to completely blow the game open, but back-to-back threes from Brown and Stowers with seven minutes to play pushed the lead to 18.
Marian’s offense kept clicking as Stowers and Henderson were able to get into the lane at will and everyone’s threes were falling. Another Brown three with 3:35 to play pushed the lead to 25, which was the largest of the game for Marian, and the Knights cruised down the stretch for an 83-59 victory. The 24-point win is Marian’s largest win at the NAIA Men’s Basketball DII National Championship Tournament.
The Knights shot 51 percent from the field and hit 11-of-24 3-pointers with six different players hitting at least one. Madonna shot 54 percent in the first half, but just 30 percent in the second. Marian won the rebounding battle 35-26 and committed 11 turnovers compared to Madonna’s 15.
All five starters scored double figures for the Knights with Stowers’ 20 leading the way. He added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kissoonlal scored 16 and grabbed five boards, while Henderson stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Wolter scored 14 and Brown added 11.
Marian advances to the second round and will face second-seeded Southwestern Friday at 6:45 PM ET.