Tommies surge late, top Northwestern
Nicolai's 17 second-half points help St. Thomas advance
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Senior guard Tyler Nicolai scored all of his 17 points in the second half, including nine during a game-closing 16-5 run, as No. 8-ranked St. Thomas outlasted Northwestern College 70-60 in Friday's NCAA men's basketball playoff game at UST's Schoenecker Arena.
A near capacity crowd of 1,575 watched as the Tommies (25-3) posted their 14th second-half comeback win and improved to 14-1 at home this season. They helped force 12 second-half turnovers by the Eagles (21-7) and used a late surge of offensive boards to post a 36-31 rebounding advantage.
St. Thomas also posted a 24-7 advantage in bench points, led by John Nance (14 points, six rebounds, three steals).
Nicolai played all 40 minutes and added five steals and four assists with no turnovers his 17 second-half points. Tommy Hannon had 11 points and nine rebounds and Alex Healy had 10 points and six assists. The Eagles, playing int heir first NCAA playiff game broke to a 10-2 lead and led 32-30 at halftime. Wade Chitwood had 17 points and Brian Lecheler had 15 points and six assists for the Eagles.
Teddy Archer 's nside basket put UST ahead to stay at 56-56, and Nicoilai followed with a 3-point basket to push the lead to four. UST made 11-of-14 free throws in the final 2:06.
St. Thomas advances to Saturday's 7 p.m. game against Illinois Wesleyan (20-8), an 83-76 winner against UW-River Falls. Sean Johnson scored 20 points to lead five IWU players scoring in double figures.