MILWAUKEE – Five players scored in double-figures and the MSOE men's basketball team shot 56.1 percent for the game in defeating Aurora 80-68 Saturday afternoon at Hotchkin Arena.
The Raiders (19-2, 14-2 NACC) overtook the Spartans (9-10, 7-7 NACC) early in the game and never looked back, keeping the league's top-scoring team at bay for the whole of the second half.
Junior Matthew Kirmse posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way. Senior Jason Palesse finished with 16 points and six steals while junior Jake Gebert chipped in 14. Junior Travis Ballard went 6-for-6 from the field on the way to 12 points and freshman Michael Pitrof scored 12, as well.
Vance Bailey and De'Ante Walker led Aurora with 13 points each. Jesse Young added 10.
The Spartans were hot out of the gates, hitting their first four 3-point attempts to quickly open a 14-7 lead. MSOE responded with 11-straight points, capped by back-to-back Kirmse three's, for the least lead change of the game and an 18-14 lead.
The Raiders did not start to pull away until the last seven-plus minutes of the first half. AU pulled even at 27-27 when the hosts rattled off an 11-2 run to jump out to a 38-29 lead. The advantage settled in at 42-35 at halftime but MSOE opened the second half on a 9-3 run for its first double-digit lead of the game at 51-38 and never looked back.
Aurora would get no closer than eight the rest of the game while the Red & White would see its lead as high as 14.
The Raiders shot nearly 60 percent in the first half before settling in just above 56 percent for the game. It was their fifth-straight game shooting better than 50 percent from the field and the seventh time this season in which they shot better than 55 percent. The team was 9-of-19 from three-point range but just 7-for-13 at the free throw line.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 40.6 percent from the field, including 10-for-24 from three-point range. They got to the free throw line a season-low four times, converting two.
With the win, MSOE clinched a top-two seed in the NACC Tournament and a bye into the semifinals. With four games remaining, the Red & White remains in the driver's seat for the top seed with a 1.5-game lead over second-place Concordia Wisconsin.
The Raiders return to the court Wednesday at Benedictine.