PHOTO: Ryan Coleman, D3Photography
Matt Carik's 3-point basket with 20 seconds left snapped a tie and visiting Augsburg survived two missed treys to tie in the final seconds to knock off top-seed St. Thomas 84-81 in a thrilling MIAC semifinal men's basketball playoff game Thursday night at Schoenecker Arena.
The Auggies (19-8) had a 20-point lead evaporate over a late 11:35 span, but made clutch shots on two of their last three possessions down the stretch to hold on to win.
Augsburg is back in the MIAC playoff title game for the second year in a row -- it won the championship last February at Bethel. The Auggies play at second-seed and No. 10-ranked St. John's Saturday night with the winner taking the league's automatic NCAA berth.
No. 9-ranked St. Thomas (22-4) trailed 46-32 at halftime. The deficit grew to 61-41 with under 14:00 left, and the Purple still trailed by 16 under 7:00 to go before a furious 20-4 run tied the game with 1:49 left capped by Connor Bair's dunk off a fast break.
Booker Coplin scored two of his game-high 32 points to put the Auggies back ahead by two, but Michael Hannon's basket tied the game at 81-81 with 1:20 remaining.
After GT Johnson's steal, the Tommies didn't convert a jumper on their possession with 42 seconds to go. After the Auggies called their last timeout, Coplin drew an extra defender and dished to Carik, who buried a shot from the corner with 20 seconds to go for the 84-81 lead.
The Tommies missed two 3-point shots in the last eight seconds as their comeback fell short.
St. Thomas, the MIAC champion, will await Monday's NCAA playoff announcement to see if it receives an at-large berth. The Toms have been ranked in the top five of the highly-competitive West Region all three polls in February.
It was the second time in three days the Auggies won on a shot on their final possession. It also was the third crazy finish involving these teams over the last six weeks. The first Tommie-Auggie game in Minneapolis went three overtimes before the Purple won 112-105. Augsburg won the last meeting 12 days ago in Schoenecker 86-84 on a basket and free throw by Coplin with :06 seconds left that erased a one-point St. Thomas lead. St. Thomas missed a game-winning 3-point attempt to end that game.
Three of St. Thomas' four losses have come by a combined six points, all on baskets allowed in the final 20 seconds.
The Auggies shot 57 percent on the game and sank 12-of-13 at the foul line. Coplin finished with 32 points and six boards and played all 40 minutes. Carik had 23 points and five assists. The Auggies had only one first-half turnover but finished the contest with nine.
St. Thomas shot 49 percent from the floor and had only six turnovers but sank just 6-of-12 at the foul line. Bair had 14 of his 18 points in the second half. Hannon made all seven shots he took and closed with 17 points. Freshman Anders Nelson had 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The Toms made 2-of-13 treys in the first half then sank 7-of-13 in the second half.