SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Summit League) – No. 5 St. Thomas exploded late to beat No. 4 Western Illinois, 67-60, advancing to the Summit League Tournament semifinals in the Tommies’ first-ever appearance in Division I postseason play. UST went on a 17-2 run deep into the second half to flip the script on a game they had trailed by 10 points after the break.
Andrew Rohde was integral to the Tommies’ surge, scoring 22 of his career-high equaling 27 points after the break. Parker Bjorklund also chipped in 22 points.
“More than anything I was inspired by how these guys stuck together and trusted each other against a really good team,” head coach John Tauer said after the game.
Rohde’s driving layup with 3:34 left gave the Tommies’ a 58-56 lead, and the all-league freshman proceeded to hit three’s on UST’s next two possessions to create separation against the fourth-seeded Leathernecks. Up until that point the Leathernecks had controlled the second half, with a pair of KJ Lee three’s and Jesiah West pushing the lead to 10 points just before the under 12 media timeout.
WIU built that lead over the first 30 minutes by pounding the ball down low, with Quinlan Bennett having particular success (17 points) around the basket. The Leathernecks would finish with 44 points in the paint, but their offense would dry up as foul trouble mounted in the game’s final stanza.
“I thought our defense was resolute to keep them out of the paint in the last 10 minutes,” Tauer said.
Trenton Massner had an uncharacteristically low scoring night (10 points, 4-13 FG), with the all-Summit first team guard praising how the Tommies crowded the paint late in the game.
UST advances to play No. 1 Oral Roberts in Monday’s first semifinal at 6 p.m.
Rohde’s back-to-back three’s with under 3 minutes proved too much for WIU to overcome. The second three was a particular dagger, coming after a Leatherneck basket that had trimmed the Tommies’ lead to just three points.
Inside the Box Score
- Rohde scored 20 points or more for the fourth straight game, and fifth time in his last six games.
- Bjorklund notched his second double double of the season (22 points, 10 rebounds) and just the third double double by a Tommie this year.
- West stuffed the sheet as he has done all season with 12 points, six rebounds and a trio of emphatic blocks.
News & Notes
- The Leathernecks have improved their league record each season under third-year coach Rob Jeter. Their nine league wins this year were the program’s most since the 2012-13 season.
- UST dropped both games to Oral Roberts this season, but pushed the Golden Eagles in a thrilling 95-88 game in St. Paul on Feb. 9.