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Eric Peterson, Published January 13 2011

Upset slips away: Concordia can't hold onto second-half lead against No. 4-ranked St. Thomas in men's basketball

Concordia had a heavyweight on the ropes Wednesday, but couldn’t finish off the reigning Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion.

Senior guard Tyler Nicolai poured in a game-high 21 points as No. 4-ranked St. Thomas rallied for a 69-61 men’s basketball victory against the Cobbers at Memorial Auditorium.

Winners of the past five MIAC regular-season titles, St. Thomas (13-0, 8-0 MIAC) remained undefeated. The Cobbers (8-5, 4-4) had their five-game winning streak snapped.

“Their experience showed as far as being a winning, championship team. They made some big shots,” Cobbers coach Rich Glas said. “We haven’t been where they’ve been when it comes to championships, winning games.”

Concordia built a 55-50 lead with 7 minutes, 47 seconds remaining after senior forward John Fraase scored a layup off a cut to the basket.

However, the Cobbers were unable to hold the lead, scoring one basket over the next seven minutes.

“We went on a big drought,” said Fraase, who led the Cobbers with 13 points. “That’s what great teams do and that’s what we need to be able to do on our home court. We have to keep that lead.”

St. Thomas took advantage of that Concordia cold spell with a 14-2 run that shifted momentum. Five different Tommies scored during that stretch. Senior guard Brady Ervin capped the surge with two foul shots, staking St. Thomas to a 64-57 lead with 42 seconds remaining. Senior guard Alex Healy drained a 3-pointer with 4:22 remaining for a 58-55 St. Thomas lead. The Tommies never trailed from that point.

“We executed down the stretch and that is really what we tried to do the whole game,” Nicolai said. “They played really well. They kind of got us out of our rhythm … we just kind of pulled it out in the end.”

The Cobbers started the second half with a 13-5 run, which Fraase capped with a short jumper. That Fraase basket gave Concordia a 42-36 lead with 14:54 remaining, the Cobbers’ largest lead of the game.

But in a game that was tied 14 times and saw 18 lead changes, Concordia was unable to deliver the knockout blow against the Tommies.

“We joined a lot of teams that have the lead and have the chance to beat them and don’t get it done,” Glas said. “But that’s to their credit. They have found ways to win a lot of games with this group, those seniors.”

ST. THOMAS (13-0, 8-0 MIAC): Healy 6-11 0-0 13, Halverson 2-6 0-0 5, Hannon 3-7 0-0 6, Nicolai 7-11 6-7 21, Archer 1-2 0-0 2, Leslie 0-1 2-2 2, Riedermann 0-1 0-0 0, DeBerg 3-4 3-3 11, Nance 1-1 0-0 2, Ervin 1-6 3-4 5, Maloney 0-0 0-0 0, Pedretti 1-4 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 14-16 69.

CONCORDIA (8-5, 4-4): Olmscheid 3-7 2-2 8, Fraase 6-15 1-2 13, Molina 1-2 2-2 5, Nana-Kweson 3-9 2-2 8, Olson 1-2 5-6 8, Lien 2-2 0-0 5, Hartmann 0-3 0-0 0, Lindahl 2-4 0-0 5, Hagemeyer 0-2 0-0 0, Martinson 3-8 0-0 9. Totals 21-54 12-14 61.

Half: UST 31, CC 29. 3-point goals: UST 5-11 (Healy 1-3, Halverson 1-1, Nicolai 1-3, Riedermann 0-1, DeBerg 2-3), CC 7-18 (Olmscheid 0-2, Molina 1-2, Nana-Kweson 0-2, Olson 1-1, Lien 1-1, Hartmann 0-1, Lindahl 1-2, Martinson 3-7). Total fouls: UST 15, CC 16. Rebounds: UST 35 (Hannon 8), CC 25 (Olmscheid 6, Fraase 6). Assists: UST 9 (Healy 3), CC 15 (Molina 5). Steals: UST 7 (Ervin 3), CC 7 (Fraase 2). Turnovers: UST 12 (Healy 5), CC 11 (three players with 2).


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com