Gregory, Quakers Rally Past St. Thomas Into NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals

Kyler Gregory '20 (Steve Frommell, d3photography.com)
Kyler Gregory '20 (Steve Frommell, d3photography.com)

OSHKOSH, Wis. – Junior Kyler Gregory matched his career high with 25 points in Guilford College's 80-73 victory over the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in a third-round NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament game Friday. Gregory scored 17 in the second half to help the Quakers (24-7) overcome a nine-point halftime deficit.

Guilford advances to Saturday's (3/9) national quarterfinal contest against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the section host, which defeated Loras College Friday, 86-75. Tip-off in the Titans' Kolf Sports Center is set for 8:00 p.m. (EST).

St. Thomas (24-5) is ranked 13th in the current D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll. Guilford improved to 6-0 against nationally ranked teams this season.

"Our guys are really loose. They don't let anything bother them," Guilford head coach Tom Palombo said. "They just go out there and play and they certainly did that in the second half tonight."

St. Thomas senior Michael Hannon made four 3-pointers and scored 17 of his career- and game-high 28 points in the first half, which helped the Tommies (24-5) to a 39-30 halftime lead. Burt Hedstrom's triple three seconds before the break opened the Tommies' largest lead of the game.

"We talked about it at halftime and said we're not going into panic mode because we've been through a lot this year," Palombo said.

"We just talked about what we needed to do offensively; shore it up and be more efficient. Defensively we talked about getting after them and making some plays. We just didn't do it in the first half, but in the second half we got after them, and that led to some good things."

Guilford shot 53.6 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes and scored the second half's first seven points to get back within 39-37. Anders Nelson's layup upped St. Thomas' lead to four, but Gregory's traditional three-point play two-and-a-half minutes later capped an 8-1 Guilford run that gave the Quakers a 45-42 lead.

The lead changed hands eight times over a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. Ryan Lindberg's three-pointer with 7:04 left gave St. Thomas a 64-61 margin before Guilford took over down the stretch. Carson Long's free throw at the 5:54 mark tied the score at 64-64. Two Marcus Curry free throws put Guilford in front for good 46 seconds later.

The Quakers clamped down on defense to end the game. St. Thomas missed its next five shots and made just 3-of-14 attempts in the final 6:08 with only one offensive rebound. Hannon's traditional three-point play with 67 seconds left made it a 74-72 game, but Gregory answered with a jumper in the lane with 43 ticks remaining. The Tommies were forced to foul after misfiring on their next possession. Gregory and Jaylen Gore both made two free throws, which iced the Quakers' sixth straight win.

Four Quakers scored 10 or more points, including Gregory, who added a game-high 11 boards for his 10th double-double this year. Curry netted 11 of his 15 points in the first half and added eight rebounds. Gore finished with 14 points and Long had 13. Guilford won the rebounding battle, 42-27, and outscored the Tommies in second-chance points, 13-3. Fueled by Gregory and Curry, the Quakers outscored St. Thomas in the paint, 34-18, and shot 50 percent from the floor.

Hannon shot 5-of-9 from 3-point range and led all scorers. Nelson added 13 points, but the rookie point guard shot just 4-of-14 from the floor. The Tommies' Tom Madison tallied eight points off the bench. St. Thomas shot 14-of-38 (36.8%) from 3-point range and had nine different students make 3-pointers. Hannon, Lindberg, and Connor Bair shared top rebounding honors with four.

Guilford, in its sixth NCAA Division III Tournament, improved to 4-0 all-time in third-round games. The Quakers also reached the sectional final in 2007, 2009, and 2010.