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"Backups" propel Men's Hoops forward in OT victory

PHOTO: Ryan Coleman, D3Photography.com

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Junior Elijah Hannah scored 11 of his team-high 13 points after halftime and No. 7-ranked St. Thomas rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to edge No. 13-ranked St. John's in overtime, 74-72, in MIAC men's basketball play Monday night before a packed house at Schoenecker Arena.

Hannah helped the Tommies record a 38-12 advantage in bench points. Burt Hedstrom sank four treys for 12 points, and junior Tom Madison added a season-high nine points. Among the starters, senior Connor Bair had 12 points and seven rebounds, and soph Ryan Lindberg also scored 12.

Colton Codute made a pair of 3-pointers in overtime for the Johnnies, but his trey attempt as time expired bounced off the rim to let the host Tommies hold on. St. John's also missed a potential game-winning shot as time elapsed at the end of regulation.

St. Thomas (15-1 overall, 11-0 MIAC) opened up a two-game lead in the conference race and ended a three-game losing streak to St. John's. The Johnnies (13-3, 9-2) have dropped two road games in three days by a combined five points.

The Purple had only seven turnovers, shot 42 percent from the field, and made nine treys as it ran its season victory streak to 15. It's one win shy of the longest win streak of the eight-season John Tauer coaching era. The Tommies have won 16 in a row three times under Tauer, the latest by the 2015-16 NCAA champion team in a midseason stretch.

David Stokman and Zach Hanson each scored 17 points to lead the Johnnies, and Lucas Walford added 12 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. SJU shot 58 percent in the first half but just 36 percent thereafter.

St. John's built an early 22-14 lead. The Tommies closed the first half on a 7-2 run as Michael Hannon's 3-pointer at the buzzer cut the SJU halftime lead to 36-35.

Walford had three dunks in a second-half stretch as the Johnnies moved ahead 51-40 with 14:05 to play. Hannah, Hedstrom and Madison helped the Tommies chip away at the lead, and the game was tight thereafter.

Tommie freshman guard Anders Nelson, who came in averaging 17 points a game, was limited to four points over the game's first 43:45. But Nelson sank two free throws with 1:15 left in overtime to erase the last SJU lead, then after a Johnnie miss, Nelson drained a jumper with 38 seconds to go for a 73-71 lead.

SJU's Hanson made one of two free throws, and Hannah for the Tommies made one of two at the line to move the score to 74-72 with 23 seconds to go. After a time out, the Johnnies worked the perimeter and gambled on a game-winner but the shot didn't fall.

St. Thomas is home Wednesday to face Concordia-Moorhead.

 

Notes

St. Thomas has three top-10 ranked winter teams. Joining the No. 7-ranked Tommie men are Women's Basketball (16-1) ranked No. 4, and Women's Hockey (15-0-1) ranked No. 2. Those three teams have a combined 46-2-1 record.

Last month, the Tommies used a 30-2 edge in bench points to score their other win over a top-15 ranked team, a 73-57 defeat of UW-Stevens Point.

Nelson had a streak of 25 consecutive made free throws end with two misses before he sank two clutch ones in overtime.