By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Dalton Hoover might want to persuade Brad Tomhave to come to Pepsi Arena a little more often.
With Tomhave, Hoover's high school coach at Pittsfield, sitting at midcourt in the front row, Hoover dominated Saturday like he did during his days as a Saukee. The Quincy University men's basketball team's freshman center scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed five rebounds to help the Hawks secure a 71-66 Great Lakes Valley Conference win over Missouri S&T.
"I knew he was there sitting in the front row," Hoover said. "With Tomhave, I know when he's in my presence."
Hoover was a defensive presence in crunch time.
QU (11-12, 6-9) led 59-41 after Jens Kennedy's basket with 10 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the game. S&T (6-16, 2-13) rallied and trimmed its deficit to 69-66 and had possession of the ball under its basket with 20 seconds remaining.
The Miners set up a play trying to free up Mudi Eruteya or Zach Ellis for a 3-pointer. S&T coach Jim Glash said he thought Ellis was open, but the pass never came. The possession ended with Eruteya driving and putting up a shot in the lane. Hoover slid over to provide help-side defense, swatted the shot away, grabbed the rebound and made two free throws to seal the victory.
Hoover's performance came at the right time. QU played without senior forward Tyler Thompson, the team's second leading scorer and rebounder, who is recovering from a left ankle sprain.
"My mindset coming into this game was I have to step up for the team," said Hoover, the former Pittsfield all-stater whose previous high scoring mark at QU was 12 points.
After the game, QU junior guard Chris Babbitt clapped Hoover on the back, calling him "Mr. MVP."
"I loved it," Babbitt, who scored 14 points, said of Hoover's performance. "That's the style of play we need him to continue the rest of the games.
"We had a man down (with Thompson being out), so we had to really pick it up. A lot of the other guys had to step up and we had to do a whole lot more, be a lot more aggressive on defense and a lot more active on the boards."
Hoover wasn't the only player to step up. Kennedy supplied 10 points off the bench on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed two rebounds.
"Dalton Hoover, huge step today for him, and for Jens Kennedy," QU coach Marty Bell said. "I thought both of those kids really helped us at a time we needed some additional scoring with Tyler Thompson being out, and I thought that's where we got it from, those two guys."
Scott Hahn, who started in place of Thompson, tallied 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Nate Des Jardins tied a career high with seven points. He sparked an 18-2 run for QU by converting a conventional three-point play with 6:38 remaining in the first half. One of the few downsides on the day for QU was that Des Jardins separated his right shoulder in the second half while scrambling after a loose ball.
The Miners battled back after halftime thanks in part to six 3-pointers. Michael Nesbitt drained three treys and finished with a team-high 18 points.
S&T's Michael Jackson threw down a one-handed dunk on a fastbreak off a feed from Eruteya to cap an 8-0 run and cut Quincy's lead to 65-60 with 1:37 to play. The Miners' momentum was short-lived, however. Eruteya was whistled for a technical for taunting after Jackson's dunk, and Babbitt made one free throw to push the lead back to two possessions.
The win was important for the Hawks' GLVC Tournament chances. QU, which has three games remaining, now almost certainly will make the tournament even if it doesn't win another game, but one more win would seal the Hawks' entry.
"This was a must-win game for us, and we came out and got it done," Hoover said.