The St. Thomas Tommies (men) wore down Wisconsin-River Falls, using 3 11-0 runs to erase a UWRF lead, then to take the lead for good, and finally to put it away. With the win, St. Thomas moves to 4-0, including a road win at #17-ranked Whitworth 70-65. OK, officially, they're just 3-0 but a shocking 93-83 win at D2 Winona State, exhibition or not, deserves to be mentioned.
Trailing the Falcons 28-22 at 7:43 of the 1st half, St. Thomas amped up the defensive pressure and UWRF turned it over on 5 of their next 6 possessions. Noah Kaiser scored twice for the Tommies, who quickly made it 33-28. Arik Smith scored 5 quick points for UWRF to tie it up.
But then St. Thomas ran off another 11 points with Connor Nord scoring twice to make it 44-33, and the Tommies would never trail again. It was 46-36 at the half.
But with St. Thomas leading 54-44, Smith went really nuts for UWRF with 4 buckets in less than 2 minutes, all on lightning quick moves into the lane and a floating shot. Guard David Stanley from Maplewood, MN, and Concordia-St. Paul, to make it 60-54 with about 9 minutes remaining.
But the Tommies ran off 11 straight for the 3rd time,with Will DeBerg hitting a pair of 3's--meaning a 2 + 1 and then the long ball, and it was 71-54 at 2:25. Game over. Smith hit a 3 inside of 2 minutes for UWRF but that only made it 71-57.
In the end it was the Tommies ball defense that was the difference. Tommy Hannon inside, and DeBerg and Eric Tengwal and John Nance, in particular, made life miserable for the Falcons. Actually they shot 50 percent from the field and 53 percent (7-of-13) on the 3-ball, but they turned it over 15 times to the Tommies 6, and the Tommies' did it all without fouling, as UWRF got to the FT line only 4 times, and none in the 2nd half. UWRF had 1 more FG than St. Thomas, but the Tommies prevailed from the line 17-3.
Smith was the top offensive player on the floor with 18 points, but the Tommies had nice balance. DeBerg and Hannon had 12 points (Hannon added 8 boards), and Nance had 11 points. Nance's ultra-quick hands picked up 4 steals. St. Thomas also had a 37-27 edge on the boards.
But make no mistake, UWRF is a good squad. But the Tommies wore 'em down with their depth and their defensive pressure. Only Tengwall and Nance played more than 22 minutes (29 and 27), while 5 Falcons averaged 30 minutes and Smith and Stanley played 34. That will probably be a theme over the coming year.
Trench Player: Tommy Hannon, St. Thomas