Senior Tommy Hannon’s 21 points led the St. Thomas men’s basketball team (5-1) over Gustavus Adolphus College (2-2) 79-61 Saturday at home.
Saturday’s win gives the Tommies two early conference victories in a row.
“I think with a young team like this, we are certainly building confidence with good win, and Gustavus is traditionally a power in the conference,” coach John Tauer said. “So I think when you combine those two things, a young team and beating a really solid opponent, our guys feel great about it. Now we got to keep it rolling.”
The Tommies came into the game playing two more games than the Gusties. Senior guard Peter Leslie said the extra games helped.
“I think it helps us get into it, and everybody get use to their new roles because everybody on our team pretty much has new roles except our (senior) center Tommy (Hannon),” Leslie said.
Gustavus sent St. Thomas to the free throw line 20 times, where the team racked up 26 points.
In the first half, St. Thomas opened the game with Hannon scoring the first basket. Gustavus soon answered back with two back-to-back three-point plays.
The lead switched hands often throughout the first half. After a 3-pointer from Leslie, which made the score 11-10, the Gusties never took the lead again.
A jumper by Hannon brought the score to 23-14 and gave St. Thomas its biggest lead in the first half. Hannon led the team in the first half with 11 points. Six of his 11 points came from the free throw line.
The Tommies ended the half ahead 30-22.
St. Thomas kept its lead throughout the entire second half, shooting 69.6 percent in the second half compared to Gustavus’ 51.9 percent.
Leslie took a hard foul from Gustavus’ Ben Biewen at 16:43 that brought about an exchange of words between the two players.
“Its one of those things. There is no need to do that. I saw it coming, so I was kind of mad about it,” Leslie said. “You get caught up in the heat of the moment and that’s what happens, but my teammates cooled me down.”
The foul also gave St. Thomas back its 10-point lead.
The Gusties came within five points of tying the Tommies in the second half, but a well-timed three- point play by freshman guard Marcus Alipate brought the score to 51-43.
Tauer said he saw improvement from the Tommies.
“Our defense and intensity was wonderful for 40 minutes. That is something we weren’t great at for the first couple of games,” he said. “We’re getting better and better as the guys are buying into defensive pressure and trusting one another, and I think that was the key to the game.”
Junior guard John Nance finished with 16 points. Hannon and junior guard Will Deberg both had five rebounds. Leslie led the team with five steals.
The Tommies will take on the Hamline Pipers Monday, Dec. 5, at Hamline University.
Olivia Detweiler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.