KENOSHA WIS. – The No. 3-ranked men’s basketball team was upset Friday night 73-71 by No. 24-ranked Anderson University in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
Junior Alex Healy led all scorers with 26 points, but it came in a losing effort as the Ravens posted 41 second-half points to pull away. Junior Ty Riddle led Anderson with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
The Tommies trailed by as many as 7 points during the second half but were able to rally throughout to exchange the lead with the Ravens in the final 10 minutes. A 5-0 run with just under two minutes left cut Anderson’s lead down to two late, but clutch free throws down the stretch turned out to be the difference.
Junior Tyler Nicolai had a clean look at a 3 with one second left for the win, but his 25-foot attempt clanked off the back iron.
“We thought we would go further,” senior Teddy Archer said. “It’s a real big disappointment.”
The Ravens shot 85 percent from the free-throw line on the game, cashing in on 28 points at the charity stripe compared to St. Thomas’ 6. The Tommies maintained heavy defensive pressure as usual, bit it equated to 26 fouls and 33 free-throw attempts for Anderson.
“You got to give Anderson credit,” Healy said. “They hit their free throws. They definitely played well enough to win.”
St. Thomas led at halftime, but struggled to maintain any momentum throughout the second half. Multiple shots rattled in and out for the Tommies, who put together runs to take brief leads but were never able to extend it to a comfortable number.
“We missed a lot of layups, shots that we would normally make,” coach John Tauer said.
Nicolai, St. Thomas’ season-leading scorer, in particular struggled shooting, going just 4-13 from the field. Five of his 9 points though came in the final two minutes though, giving the Tommies an opportunity for a last-second win.
Sophomore Brock Morrison had a double-double for Anderson with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Tommy Hannon had 11 points for St. Thomas, the only other Tommie in double digits scoring outside of Healy. Healy said he would gladly have turned in all his points for a win.
“In the NCAA tournament it doesn’t really matter how each individual does,” he said. “All that matters is winning and going on.”
It was the Ravens who were able to do that Friday night, though, ending St. Thomas’ season and the careers of seniors Joe Scott, Sam Eicher and Josh Peltier. Archer has one season of eligibility remaining and may return for another year.
“I hope that UST has better days,” Archer said. “It shows you can’t take anything for granted, the polls and everything. In March Madness it comes down to teams playing together and getting hot.”
With the year over, Tauer was quick to point to the success St. Thomas had this season.
“They can always hold their heads up,” he said. “They played unbelievably all year long. Obviously this isn’t the way we wanted it to end.”
Jordan Osterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.