The St. John’s men’s basketball team (12-7 overall, 8-6 MIAC) defeated St. Thomas (14-6, 11-4 MIAC) 61-56 Wednesday night at Schoenecker Arena, completing a regular season sweep of the Tommies for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
At halftime, the St. Thomas community honored retired coach Steve Fritz, who led the Tommies to the Division III national championship last season, by dedicating the court to him. However, St. Thomas could not come away with the win in front of near capacity crowd of 1,650.
“(The loss) really sucks, especially on dedication night to coach Steve Fritz,” junior guard John Nance said. “I really wanted to get that win for him tonight, and it just sucks for him to have a dedication night and not even get a win.”
An early run put the Tommies ahead 7-4 in the game’s opening minutes, but Johnnie senior forward Aaron Barmore kept it close by putting up 12 points in the first half.
“We didn’t get up on (Barmore) and pressure him quite well enough in the first half,” coach John Tauer said. “Their penetration hurt us quite a bit… and we just weren’t very good tonight.”
A near capacity crowd of 1,650 people turned out for the Tommie-Johnnie men’s basketball game. (Nick McAndrews/TommieMedia)
Despite a tight first half, sophomore guard Erik Tengwall ‘s 3-pointer sent the Tommies into halftime with a 29-28 lead.
Second half fizzle
The second half went back-and-fourth, but junior guard Noah Kaiser hit a deep 3-pointer to give the Tommies a 45-43 lead with 8:59 left in the game.
The turning point in the game happened when Johnnie sophomore forward Seth Marx hit a 3-pointer that sparked an 8-0 run. With 4:50 to go in the game, St. Thomas trailed 49-47 and never took back the lead.
Nance had an opportunity to pull St. Thomas closer to a tie by getting to the foul line with 37 seconds left, but he missed both attempts. Nance led the Tommies in scoring with 20 points, and his teammates were impressed by his strong play.
“John’s been picking it up as the year’s gone on,” Kaiser said. “He’s been a real strong player for us, done great things. Without him, we wouldn’t have even been in the game.”
Tauer said that this is a tough loss for his team.
“We’re certainly incredibly disappointed no matter the circumstances,” Tauer said. “We certainly fully expected to play better and put on a better show. We appreciate the crowd support, but we’re just very disappointed in how we played.”
The loss dropped St. Thomas to second place in the MIAC standings. Gustavus took first place in the conference with a 64-63 home victory over third-place St. Olaf.
The Tommies will face Augsburg (13-7, 10-5 MIAC) next, and Tauer said that his team has much to improve on before its next game.
“Defense, offense, the press… we have got to take a hard look in the mirror after a game like this,” Tauer said.
Nick McAndrews can be reached at email@example.com.