Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Thomas Men Play for National Title Today 2:30 p.m.

The St. Thomas men under coach Steve Fritz are one step away from a national title, but powerful Wooster (Ohio) (31-2) stands in their way.

The Tommies came back from a 50-43 deficit to defeat Middlebury 59-57 in last night's semifinal, as Tyler Nicolai scored 15 points to lead the way. But it was Teddy Archer with 6 and Brett Ervin with 4 points who led that 16-7 run to close out the win.

Wooster defeated Williams 83-81 in the other semi, also coming from behind--in their case, double digits behind, in the second half. Wooster has the firepower to do that. Senior guard Ian Franks averages 18 ppg on 45 percent shooting, while his running mate, senior Nathan Balch, scores 12 on 48 percent shooting. Junior forward Justin Halowell scores 12 on 44 percent shooting, and senior center Bryan Wickliffe adds 10 at a 61 percent clip.

In their last 3 NCAA tournament wins, Wooster has been led by Franks with 24 and 19, and Wickliffe with 23. Franks is averaging 19 ppg, Halowell 18, Wickliffe 13 and Balch 12 for those 3 games.

The Tommie's Tommy Hannon should match up with Wickliffe in the post, and guards Nicolai, Archer and Alex Healy will hold their own against Wooster's guards. Halowell (6-7, 210 pounds) will present a tough matchup for the Tommies' Anders Halvorsen (6-9, 210).

As a team, Wooster scores 77 ppg, St. Thomas 73.5. Wooster shoots 47 percent, the Tommies .496. So you've got to like the Tommies' chances. On the other hand, Wooster has lost only 2 games all year, the Tommies 3.

The last MIAC team to play for the national title was Gustavus in 2003, when the Gusties lost to Williams on a last-second free throw. It was Williams who lost to Wooster last night in the semi, 83-81.

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