Win over Tommies huge for men's basketball

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

Sophomore Jerry Kraus’s layup off a dish from Abe Woldeslassie ’08 with 1.6 seconds left lifted Macalester to a 72-70 victory over St. Thomas (2-1), marking the first time the Scots have defeated their Summit Ave rival since 2004. “Coach Kietzer called an isolation play for myself,” Woldeslassie said. “He wanted me to run the clock down to around 8 seconds and then try to break down the defender. I did that and I saw that Jerry [Kraus] was open underneath the hoop.”

The victory, coupled with Carleton’s loss to Bethel, puts the Scot’s alone in first place atop the MIAC. At 3-0, Mac is the only remaining unbeaten team in conference.

The Scot’s set the pace early, leading 40-35 at the half, but the Tommies claimed the lead for the first time since early in the first half, on a Tyler Nicolai ’11 lay-in with 4:48 left to play. After tying the game, Mac reclaimed the lead on a three pointer by Brian Ranwick ’08, only to see the game tied once more at 70 on an NBA range three by Tommie’s leading scorer Joe Scott ’10.

With the ball and 16 seconds remaining, Mac held for the final shot. Woldeslassie stalled, drove, and dished his game-high sixth assist to Kraus for the uncontested layup. With a chance to tie or win, St. Thomas turned the ball over on a length of the court pass, ending the game.

The win marked the second time in as many games that the Scot’s have won on their final possession. Woldeslassie scored the winning bucket in Mac’s previous game versus St. Mary’s, on a driving layup with 1.6 seconds remaining.

The intensity of the two school’s rivalry was apparent from the tip-off, as the packed Macalester student section’s chants of “DE-FENSE” combined with the raucous yells of St. Thomas parents. The atmosphere was visibly tense throughout the game, culminating in the Mac crowd’s storming of the court.

Woldeslassie, who transferred from St. Thomas after his sophomore season, acknowledged the significance of the rivalry.

“A game is always going to be intense whenever two undefeated teams are playing each other,” Woldeslassie said. “Also, with St. Thomas and Macalester only being one mile apart, that plays a role in the rivalry.”

Tom Conboy ’08 led the Scots once again, collecting game highs in points with 28 and rebounds with 7. Conboy currently leads the MIAC in scoring, averaging 26.0 points per game, and ranks second in rebounds with 9.9 per game.

“Tom has matured as a player,” Head Coach Curt Kietzer said. “He is able to sustain his focus and effort on both ends of the floor for much longer stretches during games, and also has been very consistent from game to game. He seems like he’s starting to see things develop one step ahead of the action, which is the sign of experience.”

Woldeslassie finished with 13 points, and Ranwick added 9 points shooting 3-4 from beyond the arc. Scott paced the Tommies with 20 points.

With the Mac women’s squad winning their game 74-68, the Men’s victory documents the first time ever that both basketball teams have beaten St. Thomas on the same day.

The Scots will try to hold on to their momentum as they enter a break in MIAC play. Mac travels to Northwestern Bible College on Dec. 29, but won’t see conference action again until Jan. 5 when they play at Concordia.

“I see it as an opportunity to get better and make a few corrections from the past couple games,” Conboy said. “We’ve been far from perfect.”

Although the Scot’s record indicates perfection, Kietzer agreed with Conboy.

“You never want a break when you are on a roll, but in this case it’s early enough that we still fell we have a lot of areas we can improve upon,” Kietzer said.