St. Thomas survives gruesome finish to hold off Pioneers – Twin Cities

St. Thomas was on its way to a blowout victory over Denver on Thursday night at Schoenecker Arena when things got a little scary in more ways than one.

The Tommies saw a 20-plus point lead dwindle to single digits late in the second half and played the final five minutes without leading scorer Andrew Rohde. But they were able to fight off the Pioneers’ momentum to an 81-71 victory to improve to 3-2 in the Summit League.

Rohde, who was having another strong complete game, was run over by Denver’s 6-foot-10, 265-pound center Lukas Kisunas as the teams began running to the other end of the court following a defensive rebound from St. .Thomas.

Rohde was hit in the head and lay on the ground for a couple of minutes while being tended to by the Tommies’ track trainer. He came out with a towel over his face and they took him to the locker room. He did not return to the bench. Kisunas was ejected from the game.

“He got hit pretty hard,” St. Thomas coach Johnny Tauer said. “He was bleeding quite a bit from his mouth.”

Tauer said he’s hopeful Rohde will be available when the Tommies host Omaha on Saturday.

The Tommies scored the game’s first five points and gradually built on that lead, taking a 47-25 halftime lead. They led by 21 points (67-46) with 10 minutes to go, and all signs pointed to the Tommies heading to victory.

But with two and a half minutes to go, the lead was cut to eight.

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“We were super connected for 25 minutes,” said Tommies post Parker Bjorklund, who led all scorers with 26 points, “and in the second half we had a lot of defensive breakdowns, especially me. Could have done much better on the ball screens. They got going a bit. It’s a racing game, and they had a pretty long one. Luckily we were able to close it.”

Bjorklund said the first half probably featured the best defense the Tommies have played this season. They held the Pioneers to 38.5 percent shooting in the first half while shooting 58.6 percent themselves.

Tauer acknowledged that watching his team play so well was a pleasure.

“After two tough road losses, I don’t think we will ever waver in our belief in each other,” Tauer said. “But his preparation over the last three days, Parker exemplifies that. He had 26 points tonight, but the way he scored in the first half was some of the same two-on-one endgame drills that we worked on.

“So, yeah, the first half was pretty electric. Sometimes I find myself just watching them play, and it gives me a lot of joy.”

Drake Dobbs, a 6-2 guard out of Eden Prairie, made his Tommies debut after missing the first half of the season following a transfer from Liberty. Dobbs, the leading scorer in Eden Prairie history, played 14 minutes and was particularly effective on defense.

“Having Drake back is huge for us because we can play with the tempo,” Tauer said. “The more guys we can play, the better. He is a veteran; It’s his third year of college. As amazing as Andrew Rohde is, he has put a lot of pressure on the ball on opposing guards and has picked up the ball. This will allow us to put Andre and Riley on the wing a bit more.”

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