Men’s basketball conquers at MIAC: Oles too strong for Tommies in finals showdown
Stephen Nolan, Sports Editor
March 7, 2014 • 423 views
The St. Olaf men’s basketball team headed into the MIAC Men’s Basketball Playoff Championship game on March 2 after having already recorded an incredible season. After winning 17 games in the regular season, the team held the record for the most MIAC wins in program history. Not content to settle with this remarkable achievement, the Oles recorded an impressive 63-53 win over University of St. Thomas and captured St. Olaf’s first ever playoff championship victory.
The Oles fell behind early to the defending champions, trailing by as many as six points early in the first half. Despite the slow start, the Oles were inspired by a large contingent of fans that had traveled in support of the team and took the lead with 9:39 left in the opening half after Sterling Nielsen ’15 nailed a 3-pointer. It was a lead that the Oles would never relinquish.
St. Olaf stretched their lead to eight points with 12:43 left in the game, but the Tommies rallied by scoring seven straight points and reducing the lead to just one. Nielsen and Connor Gunderson ’14 combined for five points straight to extend the lead to six again with 5:28 left.
The Oles hit almost all of their free throws to close down the game, shooting 15-of-19 in the second half and 27-of-34 throughout the entire game.
The Oles were led by Justin Pahl ’16, who scored 20 points. Pahl turned in a terrific performance to lead St. Olaf in the title game. He went 9-for-9 from the line en route to a game-high 20 points.
Nielsen continued his tremendous postseason play as well, with 16 points and three assists with an 11-for-12 performance at the line, and Gunderson added nine points and six rebounds.
Nathan Kuck ’14 added eight points off the bench for St. Olaf. The Oles shot nearly 80 percent (79.4) from the free-throw line in the win.
The Oles will open their NCAA Division III tournament campaign against Central College in Stevens Point, Wis. on March 7.