Led by seniors Anders Halvorsen and Tyler Nicolai, the Tommies erased a 19-point first-half deficit to defeat the Hamline Pipers 78-70 at home. The win sends the Tommies into the MIAC playoff championship.
Halvorsen, who had 19 points, said he was confident despite the deficit.
“I don’t think anybody had any doubt we weren’t going to lose, so we just came out and played tough defense,” Halvorsen said.
Halvorsen scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half, including back-to-back threes.
“We know he can shoot the ball,” coach Steve Fritz said. “They left [Halvorsen] open at the top of the key and he knocked them down. That was huge.”
Nicolai finished with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, and had only one turnover in 38 minutes. He said the Tommies tried to limit Hamline’s points in the second half.
“45 points is way too many to give up in a half,” Nicolai said. “We shot really well, but we knew that we were gonna kind of get back, so [giving up] 25 points in the second half … worked out for us.”
Down 35-45 at half, the Tommies broke out in the second with a 15-4 run. After trading the lead with the Pipers for much of the second half, the Tommies closed the game with a 15-5 run over the last six minutes.
Hamline’s Carl Hipp closed out the final game of his career with 23 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks. His size caused major headaches for the Tommies all night.
“We tried double-teaming him, but even that wasn’t really effective,” said senior Alex Healy, who finished with eight points. “It’s hard to stop somebody like that.”
Even with Hipp’s big game, the Tommies had a 35-34 rebounding edge. The Tommies also shot nine of 21 from beyond the arc.
Halvorsen said it feels good to be back in the MIAC championship.
“It’s big time,” he said. “Last year we were here, [we] lost to Carleton, so we have to come back and play hard against Gustavus on Sunday.”
“We have things we have to get ready for tomorrow,” Fritz said. “The players have to be prepared.”
The Tommies will face Gustavus at 2 p.m. Sunday at Schoenecker Arena. The Gusties upset top-ranked Carleton 70-64 Friday night.
Tom Graves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.