Despite a commanding second-half lead, the St. Thomas men’s basketball team narrowly escaped with a 62-59 victory Saturday over St. John’s.
The Tommies had a seemingly comfortable 16-point margin with 11:36 remaining in the game until the Johnnies started running a 1-3-1 zone and press, a defense St. Thomas hasn’t seen much of this year, senior Teddy Archer said.
“Teams hardly ever zone us because of how good our shooters are,” Archer said. “But [St. John’s] did, and they did it at a good time of the game because we had a nice lead.”
While the Tommies were adjusting to the 1-3-1 zone, St. John’s was slowly coming back. The Johnnies cut the lead to three points with 1:12 remaining in the game.
“It kind of boggled us,” Archer said.
But Archer, who chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds, said he never broke a sweat.
“I love close games,” he said. “We’ve been in that situation almost seven times this year. … We just have trust that we have the players to pull it out.”
Brady Ervin’s two free throws with less than a minute left brought the score to 60-55, but a jumper by St. John’s Aaron Barmore, a missed free throw by junior Tommy Hannon, another St. John’s basket and another missed free throw by senior Alex Healy brought the score to 62-59 with 15 seconds remaining and the ball in St. John’s possession.
St. John’s Sam Blank had a decent look, but his last-second 3-point attempt never hit rim.
“It always feels good to beat them, no matter if it’s 20 points or three points,” Hannon said. “It’s always good to get a win.”
Hannon led the Tommies with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his third straight game scoring in double digits. Alex Healy also added 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Both teams shot 45.3 percent from the field, but St. Thomas shot 41.7 percent from the 3-point line compared to St. John’s 18.2 percent.
The Tommies’ solid shooting helped the team jump out to a 31-21 lead at halftime. Archer scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half, hitting all five of his shots.
“We have great players like Alex [Healy] and Ty [Nicolai], so the lane is going to be open, and I’m just starting to see some light there and finish at the rim,” Archer said.
Saturday’s victory was the first of a four-game home stand for the Tommies. St. Thomas, now 15-1 overall and 10-1 in the MIAC, will host Augsburg, Bethel and St. Olaf before the end of January. Hannon said he was happy with Saturday’s victory, but he was already looking forward.
“We have to go on a little run here and win some more games,” he said. “This is a good start for us.”
Miles Trump can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.