St. Thomas upends North Dakota, ending the Hawks' postseason chances
GRAND FORKS – Before Tuesday’s game, The Summit League had its tie breaking scenarios in place in case UND and Omaha tied for the eighth – and final – seed in its upcoming postseason tournament.
No need to worry about that anymore.
St. Thomas made sure UND won’t have any postseason plans by beating the Hawks 84-74 at The Betty. And the game wasn’t that close as St. Thomas – a Division III team a season ago – led UND by 25 points with 12 minutes to play.
UND trailed Omaha by two games with two to play entering the day. UND dropped to 2-15 in the Summit and 6-24 overall. Omaha has four wins with two games to play – meaning UND will quietly close out its season Saturday at home against North Dakota State.
“They played a lot harder than us,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “They were a lot more connected than we were. We got off to a good start and it was like we felt it was going to be a fun afternoon game with things going our way. And then when things didn’t go our way, they were a lot better than us.
“Sometimes you get outrebounded because they’re just playing harder than you. Sometimes you get beat around the rim because they’re playing harder than you. I just felt that was the case today.”
St. Thomas also broke a 12-game losing streak. The Tommies placed five players in double figures, shot 49 percent, committed only six turnovers, and outrebounded a bigger UND team 33-32.
The Tommies, who won the NCAA Division III championship in 2016, improved to 3-13 in the league and 9-19 overall with basically the same roster they had last season as a Division III program.
“Our kids competed really hard and played together,” said St. Thomas coach Johnny Tauer. “We’ve had a rough stretch here in terms of the score but I’ve been proud of our guys the way they competed in our first year of Division I. Making a jump like this is unprecedented.”
UND led 9-2 early and all indications were that the Hawks would cruise.
By halftime, the Tommies – led by Ryan Lindberg’s 14 team-high points – were up 41-30. That lead grew to 61-37 before the Hawks found some life. Matt Norman (21 points) and Ethan Igbanugo (10) hit 3-pointers that allowed UND to close to within seven (70-63) with 3:53 to go.
“We dug ourselves a hole; we fought back but there was a lot of effort to get back within (seven) points,” said Norman. “We still could have won but it starts out with us digging that giant hole.”
UND will have an off day Wednesday before getting ready to play the Bison.
“We just weren’t ready to come out and play a team that I thought was a lot more ready to play than we were,” said Sather. “And in our current state right now, you’d think every single opportunity we get on the court and play a team in a similar situation we should have been foaming at the mouth. You’ve got to do the dirty work and we weren’t up for the dirty work today.”