The St. Thomas men’s basketball team (17-2 overall, 12-2 MIAC) experienced its first home loss Monday night, losing to St. Olaf 73-68 and breaking a 53-game home MIAC winning streak.
The Tommies started the game strong and led for the majority of the first half. With back-and-forth scoring, St. Thomas earned its lead, going into halftime up 38-32.
Junior Peter Leslie and senior Alex Healy led the Tommies in scoring in the first half with seven points each. Leslie was 2-3 from the field and 3-3 from the free-throw line. The Tommies shot 60 percent overall before the break.
St. Thomas continued to play well in the second half, but when St. Olaf took the lead late in the game, the Tommies couldn’t answer back.
Led by junior Bobby Fong’s 17 points and seven rebounds, St. Olaf was able to withstand a 7-0 run that put the Tommies ahead 65-64 with 2:28 remaining. But Fong put the Oles back in the driver’s seat, scoring five straight points, including a key 3-pointer.
The Tommies made things close with a 3-pointer by senior Tyler Nicolai that cut the lead to one, but Connor Gunderson’s free throws with 35 seconds left sealed the win for St. Olaf.
“You’re always disappointed when you lose at home,” coach Steve Fritz said. “We also knew this was a very good team, so nothing surprises you. We played some very good minutes, but we didn’t put 40 good minutes together.”
“We just didn’t really play well and couldn’t get anything going offensively,” he said.
Nicolai and Healy led St. Thomas in scoring with 11 points each.
The loss was a tough one for the Tommies, breaking a five-year home winning streak and a 14-game winning streak against St. Olaf.
St. Thomas will take on St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Winona.
“We have to practice and play harder for St. Mary’s on Wednesday,” Leslie said. “We have to take it to a new level. We’re not playing hard enough right now.”
Katie Lescarbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.