San Antonio - The Tiger men's basketball team opened up the Trinity Holiday Classic with a 72-68 defeat at the hands of Aurora (IL) University on Saturday afternoon.
Although Aurora scored the first points of the game on a pair of free throws, it was Trinity that controlled the action early with a 9-3 lead over the first six minutes. Aurora bounced back with seven straight points to take a 17-16 lead at the 8:40 mark. The Tigers answered in a big way, outscoring the Spartans 15-3 over the final 7:28 of the first half and taking a 35-22 lead into the break.
After halftime, Trinity pushed the lead as high as 18 points at the 14:58 mark, but Aurora mounted its comeback shortly after that. The Spartans began with an 8-1 run that cut Trinity's lead to just 49-39 with 10:34 remaining. The lead remained in double figures until there were less than eight miunute to play as Aurora hit a three-pointer to make it 55-47.
After Trinity scored a bucket to go back up by 10, Aurora rattled off eight unanswered to make it a one-possession game with just over six minutes remaining. Brooks Mays broke the run with a clutch three-pointer on the next possession, but the Spartans answered with a three of their own to start a 10-0 run that put the visitors in front 65-60 with 3:58 to go in the game.
Mays scored for the Tigers once again, then Trinity's defense forced Aurora to miss on its next three shot attempts to keep the game in reach. The Tigers were also fouled three times in that stretch to earn 1-and-1 free throws, but Trinity missed the front end each time and the game remained a 65-62 lead for Aurora.
After another missed shot by Aurora, Mays knocked in another jump shot to bring Trinity within one point with 1:21 remaining. The Spartans snapped a scoring drought of more than three minutes with a big shot with 52 seconds to play, but Danny Rivara answered back with a shot of his own to make it a 66-67 deficit for the Tigers.
Aurora dropped in a layup with 21 seconds to go to take a three-point lead, then Trinity turned the ball over with 12.1 seconds left and was forced to foul. The Spartans made just 1-2 at the line, then Rivara scored again with three seconds to go to pull within two (68-70). After the Tigers fouled immediately, Aurora knocked down both foul shots to close out the game and escape with the comeback victory.
Trinity had its two-game win streak snapped and falls to 2-8 this season, while Aurora improved to 4-6 on the year.
Danny Rivara posted his first double-double of the season for the Tigers, posting team season-high totals of 17 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 6-12 from the field and 5-7 from the foul line, adding two assists and two blocks in his 25 minutes off the bench.
Aaron Knopp connected on 7-8 from the field on his way to a 14-point night, also pulling in five boards to lead Trinity's starters in both categories.
Brooks Mays and A.J. Clark had nine points each, while Clark added five rebounds and a team-best three assists.
Isaiah Specks was the only other Tiger player in double figures, finishing with 11 points in 22 minutes, and swiping a Trinity-best two steals to go with four rebounds and a pair of assists.
Trinity shot 48% from the field for the game, but struggled to shoot under 30% from beyond the arc. The Tiger defense also held Aurora under 39% shooting for the game - including less than 24% from three-point range.
Trinity will finish off the tournament on New Year's Eve, hosting Sul Ross State (TX) University at 2:00 p.m.