The St. Thomas men’s basketball team earned its fourth win in the last five games after a 84-75 victory over St. Olaf Saturday afternoon at Schoenecker Arena.
St. Thomas (6-3 MIAC, 8-6 overall) forward Ryan Boll was a force inside, tallying up 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. But it was the three-point shooting and defensive pressure put on St. Olaf (5-4 MIAC, 9-5 overall) that set this new-look St. Thomas team apart.
“I really liked our energy on the defensive end,” coach John Tauer said. “I thought we didn’t capitalize offensively in the first half … In the second half, I thought we did a better job executing.
“Overall, I’m thrilled with our guys’ energy and am very pleased to get a win against a really good team,” Tauer said.
St. Olaf, which beat St. Thomas in both of their matchups last season, was looking for its fourth win in the last five games as well.
“Us upperclassmen knew that they beat us twice last year, but it’s a new team,” Boll said. “It definitely didn’t go into the game plan or anything.”
What did go into the game plan was the full-court press that the Tommies put on for the majority of the game, which created 15 St. Olaf turnovers and 17 St. Thomas points.
“The coaches have done a great job of installing some new principles,” Boll said. “The press you saw today, we really haven’t done that all year.”
Along with the new-look defense, the Tommies also looked like a different team from three-point range. With the help of guard Burt Hedstrom’s three three-pointers in the first half and guard Michael Hannon’s two three-pointers in the second half, St. Thomas knocked down half of its shots from deep, shooting a combined 12-for-24 on the game.
“Seeing the ball go in the hoop just gets your confidence up and makes it that much easier from there on out,” Hannon said.
Boll stressed how much matchups change inside when his teammates are making their shots from the outside.
“Man, it gets a lot easier,” he said. “You can definitely see the floor open up … It’s nice. It’s real nice.”
With the help of the players who were injured earlier in the season, the team seems to be trending upward.
“We started the year knowing we were going to be young, and then we had more injuries in the first two months than we’ve ever had in a season,” Tauer said. “ I think that allowed a lot of guys to get experience. And now, as we’re getting healthier — we’re not fully healthy, but we’re getting healthier — I think that has allowed us to become deeper. The pieces are certainly coming together.”
The Tommies plan to use this win as confidence moving forward.
“We got a big week next week,” Hannon said. “We play Bethel on Wednesday and St. John’s on Saturday. Both of those teams are near the top of the conference. So, to play well like this today on our home court going into that week is huge for us.”
In another home game, St. Thomas will tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Bethel.
Gamiel Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.