Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Big Game 1-28-12: St. Thomas at Gustavus Doubleheader

St. Thomas and Gustavus split the big MIAC doubleheader in St. Peter. The Tommies women stayed unbeaten at 15-0 in the conference with an eye-popping 20 point win, while the Gustavus men finally put the Tommies away in the last seconds of OT to gain a tie for 1st place in the conference.

St. Thomas Women 72 Gustavus 52

If #1 beats #2, and does it on the road, no less, and if #1 further wins by a ridiculous wide margin, then who in the world is going to beat #1?

If you haven't guessed, #1 is shorthand for the unbeaten 15-0 St. Thomas women, who massacreed 2nd place Gustavus today in St. Peter 72-52. Gustavus led 3-2, but Taylor Young gave the Tommies the lead for good at 4-3 with a layup at 16:28. Shortly, it was 14-3. And, though Gustavus got back within 16-13 and, in the 2nd half, 51-47, St. Thomas had all the answers it needed this day.

At 16-13 the Tommies got a 3 from Ali Johnson, then a pair of throws and a jumper by Maggie Weiers. By half-time it was 37-26.

In the 2nd half the Gusties got within 4, but Kellie Ring responded with a 3 and Sarah Smith with a steal and a feed to Taylor Young for a layup. A Kelly Brandenburg throw got the margin back into double figures, and the closest Gustavus ever got was 8 points.

The bottom line is Gustavus shot 30 percent from the field, 10 percent from beyond the arc. Whether that was just bad luck or "one of those nights," or whether the Tommies defense had something to do with it, you decide. But I saw St. Thomas hold Hamline to a 35 FG percentage the other night, and the Tommies defense had everything to do with that. The St. Thomas guards successfully pressured Hamline's ball handlers at the 10 second line, disrupting things and forcing Hamline to take shots other than the ones they wanted and/or as the shot clock was winding down.

Of course, the Pipers do not have an elite pair of guards, Gustavus does in Molly Geske and Colleen Ruane. Well, I didn't see exactly what St. Thomas was doing on defense today, but Geske, as it turns out, shot 1-for-13. Check and mate, as they say.

Here, for those of you keeping score at home, is the Tommies' rotation today:

C- Maggie Weiers 29 minutes 21 pts 8 reb; Sarah Smith 11 min 12 points 6 mine

PF- Sarah Smith 19 min; Haley Loesch 7 min 2 reb; Anna Smith 9 min 4 pts 2 reb; Taylor Young 5 min 2 pts

SF- Taylor Young 31 min 15 pts; Kelly Brandenburg 9 min 3 pts

PG- Carolyn Dienhart 23 min 4 pts 2 asts; Kellie Ring 17 min 3 pts

SG- Ali Johnson 25 min 3 pts; Brandenburg 15 min 4 pts

This has the look of a rotation that is going to finish 22-0 in the MIAC. I mean, like I said, if they can win in St. Peter, are they going to lose at St. Ben's or Augsburg, or at home to Macalester, St. Kate's, Concordia, Bethel or St. Mary's? I didn't think so.

Gustavus Men 82 St. Thomas 77 (OT)

The Tommies men appear to be nowhere near as unbeatable as the women, but that could hardly be construed as a criticism. I mean, here are the defending national champions, having lost their three-guard offense and defense in Teddy Archer, Alex Healy and Tyler Nicolai to graduation, coach Steve Fritz to retirement, and now senior post Tommy Hannon to injury. Despite all of that, here they are in 1st place in the MIAC--tied, now, with Gustavus at 10-3, to be sure--but in 1st place.

Gustavus led by as many as 9 at 41-32 at 17:16 of the 2nd half before St. Thomas rallied to lead by 5 at 63-58 11 minutes later. Gustavus scored 6 straight to retake the lead at 64-63 at 3:52 and neither team led by more than 2 until the Gusties scored 3 of the 1st 4 buckets of OT. Will DeBerg hit a 3 to tie it up at 75, and a Noah Kaiser dunk brought the Tommies within 78-77 at 1:22 of OT.

At that point Paul Blacklock rescued Seth Anderson and the Gusties. Anderson, the MIAC's leading scorer and the leading scorer in this game with 26 points, missed 3-of-4 FT down the stretch, but Blacklock grabbed the rebound and 30 seconds later Ben Biewen hit 2 throws to make it 80-77. Blacklock then blocked DeBerg's shot and Biewen then hit 2 more throws for the final score.

Blacklock scored just 9 points but led both teams with 7 boards and 2 blocks. Biewen added 15 points and 6 assists for the winners. John Nance scored 21 and DeBerg 20 for the Tommies. Nance had 4 assists while both had 2 steals apiece.

The bottom line, again, was FG shooting. Gustavus shot 60 percent, the Tommies 44.

So, the plot thickens in the MIAC. St. Thomas and Gustavus are 10-3, Augsburg and St. Olaf, both winners today, are 9-4. Hamline, idle today, remains at 8-5. While it's true that "on any given day," these would nevertheless be the games to watch for:

Wednesday Feb. 1--St. Olaf at Gustavus
Saturday Feb. 4--St. Thomas at Augsburg
Monday Feb. 13--St. Olaf at Augsburg

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