Missionaries fall to #13 St. Thomas

Julian Reed

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The Whitman men’s basketball team dropped to 1-1 Thursday, Nov. 20 after a 96-86 loss to University of St. Thomas. Whitman took an eight-point lead into halftime and led for most of the game, but the Tommies pulled away late in a close, tightly called game.

The Missionaries were led by seniors Matt Mounier’s 19 points and Dominic Lippi’s 18. St. Thomas was paced by Marcus Alipate’s six threes and Taylor Montero’s 20 points.

Whitman started the game slowly, trailing for much of the first half. They gradually cut away at the lead with improved defensive intensity, which led to 14 forced turnovers and easy looks at the other end. They tied the game at 26 with 9:30 left in the half when starting guard junior Tochi Oti stole the ball and lobbed it in transition to forward junior Evan Martin, who electrified the crowd with an emphatic alley-oop finish.

They took the lead moments later on a three from Lippi, after which a flurry of steals and hot shooting widened the lead to eight. They pushed the lead to as much as 14, and two free throws from Mounier made it 49-41 at the half.

The Tommies came out after halftime playing more aggressive defense, which frequently forced the Missionaries into isolation plays late in the shot clock. Pairing this with improved offensive execution, St. Thomas came back to tie the game with 7:45 left on forward Jimmy Remke’s layup.

St. Thomas’ 22-8 run was fueled in part by the Missionaries’ foul trouble. Whitman’s aggressive, trapping defense was called closely by the officials, picking up four team fouls in the first 2:09 of the half. The team spent much of the game in the penalty, which led to 33 free throw attempts for the Tommies.

A long three off the dribble by Oti brought the score to 77-80 with four minutes left, but Marcus Alipate responded on the next possession with his own three. Two layups from St. Thomas center Conner Nord, who had 11 points on 4-4 shooting in the second half, pushed the lead to ten. Several trips to the line iced the game for the Tommies.

The game was a far cry from the season opener against D’Youville College, a 41-point laugher against an unranked team. St. Thomas is ranked 13th in the nation and responded much more adeptly to the Missionaries’ full-court press and transition game.

Whitman also had to play without first-year guard Rolaun Dunham, who scored 20 points against D’Youville, after he sprained his ankle in practice on Tuesday. His return for the team’s next game, against Rutgers University-Newark is uncertain.

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