March 13, 2009

Courtesy of St. Thomas (Minn.)

Junior guard Joe Scott sank four 3-pointers in a 19-point night as No. 1-ranked St. Thomas (30-0) scored an 86-69 win over No. 7-ranked Puget Sound (25-4) in Friday's NCAA sectional semifinal men's basketball game in Wheaton, Ill.

The Tommies won their first-ever NCAA playoff game away from Schoenecker Arena in six tries and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in 15 seasons.

St. Thomas joined a select group of Division III basketball teams to start a season 30-0. They will play Saturday at 7 p.m. against No. 2-ranked Washington (Mo.), a 55-52 winner over host and No. 3-ranked Wheaton.

Coach Steve Fritz' team never trailed as it shot 54% from the floor and posted a 35-23 rebounding edge. The Tommies had a few errors against the athletic Loggers' full-court press, but finished the game with a modest 13 turnovers.

UST closed the first half on an 11-3 run to take a 46-38 halftime lead. UPS pulled within 64-54 but the Toms answred with a 5-0 run as Viau made three free throws and Lonnie Robinson drove for two.

Senior forward B.J. Viau had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, and sophomore guard Player picTyler Nicolai had 13 points. UST made 8-of-14 from 3-point range. St. Thomas survived Robinson's foul woes, as the senior forward fouled out with five points and five assists in only 16 minutes.

Jason Foster had a game-high 23 points for the Loggers, who stayed in the game at the foul line. Puget Sound made 23-of-27 to UST's 16-of-25. UPS also shot 49% from the floor. The Loggers pulled within 80-69 with 3:58 left but missed two free throws and went scoress the last four minutes.

UPS Head Coach Justin Lunt:
ON WHAT HAPPENED AFTER GAME WAS TIED AT 35-35: "I think their 11 (more) offensive rebounds and 16 second chance points were very crucial. I thought they did an excellent job rebounding. It was interesting because we've played against a lot more physical and bigger teams, but we got beat on the boards 12, which was unusual for us."

OVERALL THOUGHTS: "Hats off to St. Thomas. They are very well coached and did what they wanted to do. They might be one of the best passing teams I've seen since (UW) Stevens Point in 2005. They really pass the ball extremely well. They did a very good job against our pressure. I don't think we ever got it going or got in a rhythm. We just couldn't get into a flow. I think if you take away the second chance points it's a whole new ball game."

"I think St. Thomas is a pretty darn good team. Hat's off to them; they hit shots on a neutral site."

ON TEAM: "Every single one of them competed extremely hard all year, through all the adversity that we've been through as a group. To get to where we are, I'm just very proud of them."

UPS Senior Jason Foster:
ON ST. THOMAS: "They're a hell of a defensive team. Offensively we never got in the flow. We kind of had to force some things and were unable to make some plays in the first half. That kind of caught up to us."

ON THE SEASON: "I love every person on my team and the way they played and fought to get to this point. It wasn't our night to move on."
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UST Head Coach Steve Fritz:

"We're very pleased with the way we played. We knew going in the tempo that they like to play at and the tempo we like to play at. In some ways, they are similar. We felt we had to get them out of a running game and into a half-court game. I think we did a pretty good job of that. That's where we thought we'd have the advantage."

ON PUGET SOUND'S RUNNING GAME: "We've created that pace sometimes on our own, but nobody comes at you with that pace."

"In this kind of a game there's always going to be some streaks. Certainly, when they come at you hard and you turn it over a couple times, you give them a couple easy ones, you tend to get a little bit rattled. But I thought we came back every time after we gave up a couple. We'd counter and it never got to a point where you could really get rattled. We kept it pretty well at 10 (points) or more the whole second half. It was a pretty comfortable level."

"They're a good team and have some quicks. But I thought we did a nice job of meeting every one of their challenges."

"We did a nice job on (Austin) Boyce and took him away. He's really more of their inside presence. That was a huge part of it."

UST Senior B.J. Viau:

ON HIS EASY LAYUPS IN THE SECOND HALF: "I don't really shoot anything but layups," he joked. "I just try to be aggressive.  They play so close, but the opportunity was there and the shots went in."

ON THE UST DEPTH: "With these (Scott and Nicolai), they're going to hit a good shot. But we've got confidence in anyone on our team. We could put our 15th guy out there and I have the confidence he would do what everyone else does and that's play hard. That's our style."

UST Junior Joe Scott:

ON WITHSTANDING PUGET SOUND'S RUN: "Coach Fritz does such a great job of keeping us composed. Everything we do is positive and helps the entire team. We've got a great chemistry and comrodory. It just makes everything so much easier and takes the pressure off of our backs."