Cold First Half Proves Costly

Senior Tom Fraase tries to dribble away from the St. Thomas defense in the Cobbers nine-point loss to the No.5-ranked Tommies.
Senior Tom Fraase tries to dribble away from the St. Thomas defense in the Cobbers nine-point loss to the No.5-ranked Tommies.

MOORHEAD, Minn. (1/25/16) --- Concordia could not revive the Memorial Magic experienced in the past few years against No.5-ranked St. Thomas as the Cobbers' five-game winning streak was snapped with a 79-70 loss. 

Concordia drops to sixth in the MIAC with a 10-7 overall record and 7-5 conference mark while the Tommies win their 12th straight game improve to 16-1 overall and 11-1 in MIAC play. 

The Cobbers were held scoreless for over seven minutes from the 8:39 mark to 1:11 left in the first half, a stretch that proved costly and left Concordia trailing by 16 points at the break. 

Despite the seven-minute scoreless stretch, the box numbers were relatively even. UST outshot CC 51.1% (24-for-47) to 46.9% (23-of-49) from the floor but the Cobbers went 8-for-14 from beyond the arc while the Tommies went 6-of-14. The two teams were also dead even on points in the paint at 26-26. 

St. Thomas did their damage at the charity stripe.  Cortez Tillman went 10-of-10 and Ryan Saarela hit 8-of-9 from the line as UST went 25-of-28 (89.3%) from the foul line, including a clutch 16-of-17 over the game's final 1:52. 

The Tommies sprinted out to an early 19-11 lead. UST scored eight of its first nine possessions including a pair of 3-pointers and a basket with a foul. 

Concordia kept the deficit at eight points. The Cobbers were down 27-19 at the 6:59 mark of the first half but then St.Thomas went on a 12-4 run to close out the half and take a 16-point lead into the half. 

Each team took 25 shots in the first half, but the Tommies were shooting at a rim the size of a garbage can. UST went 14-of-25 (56%) shooting while CC struggled to shoot from the floor, going 8-of-25 (32%) and 1-of-4 from the beyond the arc. 

Tom Fraase came out and hit shots in the early going of the second half for Concordia. He drilled a triple from the top of the key then followed with a wing jumper. Dylan Alderman muscled his way to the basket on the next possession to make it 39-30. 

St. Thomas' Taylor Montero answered the 7-0 Concordia run with three of his 15 points that made it 42-30. 

The Cobbers continued to battle. Fraase made another deep ball and Jordan Bolger hit a pair of free throws to make it 44-35. 

With 11:44 to play Alderman hit a jumper that cut the deficit to just five points. After a Tommie score, Alderman connected on a pair of free throws to keep the margin at five but CC could not claw any closer. 

CC turned the ball over three of the next four possessions and St. Thomas forged ahead using a 10-1 run which provided just enough cushion.  With 7:01 to play, the Tommies led 56-41. 

The Cobbers kept the deficit around ten points for the next five minutes and attempted to make a push with just under two minutes to play. 

CC hit four 3-pointers in the final 70 seconds. Bolger hit two off-balance triples and had a rebound-put back score. Alderman scored six points, Syverson scored inside, and Brett Bergeson and Fraase both accounted for 3-pointers, but it was not enough. 

Concordia was forced to play the fouling game and UST came through at the line. St. Thomas went 16-of-17 from the charity stripe in the final 1:52, only missing the front end of a one-and-one bonus and held off the Cobbers. 

CC used a 62.5% (15-of-24) shooting output in the second half to come back, including 7-for-10 from the 3-point line and 10-of-12 from the foul stripe, but they could not climb out of the 16-point first-half hole. 

All five St. Thomas starters scored in double figures. Ryan Boll came into the game averaging just under four points per game, but scored a season-high 13 in the win. Tillman wound up with a game-high 19 points while Grant Shaeffer chipped in 13 and Saarela added 12. Montero finished with 15 points. 

Bolger led three Cobbers in double figures. He tallied 17 points, with 10 of them coming in the last two minutes, and seven rebounds. Alderman put together another solid stat line, pumping in 16 points, three boards, three dimes and a pair of steals. Fraase added 13 points for Concordia. 

That's no typo. Fans in attendance at Memorial Auditorium might not have realized it, but Monday night's game featured two of the best shooting teams in the country. St. Thomas holds the third best field goal percentage in the country, shooting 51.4% from the floor. Concordia is not far behind, sitting at fourth in the nation with a 51.2% shooting percentage from the floor.

Concordia has beaten St. Thomas two out of the last four years at home, when they were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, but could not nip the No. 6 Tommies at home this year. Both of the Cobber wins over St. Thomas came in odd years (2013, 2015). The Cobbers are 2-14 over the past eight seasons against UST. 

Concordia will complete their three-game home stand on Wednesday, January 27 at 5:45 p.m. when they host St. Olaf. The Oles (10-7 overall/7-5 MIAC) are coming off a 62-56 road win against Augsburg on Monday and now sit in a three-way tie for second place in the conference with Carleton and St. John's. St. Olaf narrowly beat Concordia 73-70 in an OT thriller back on December 9.