On Saturday, Feb. 27, the St. Olaf men’s basketball team travelled to St. Paul to face regional rival the University of St. Thomas for the MIAC title. Despite the University of St. Thomas heading into the game as the top-seed after a previous win against St. Olaf, the Oles achieved a resounding 72-66 victory.
The game continued a pattern of recent success for the Oles. St. Olaf has gone 18-9 this season, winning eight of its last nine games. The only loss came by the hands of St. Thomas, making the MIAC title that much more meaningful.
Several outstanding efforts sparked the Olaf victory. Forward Ben Figini ’16 shot 10 for 13 from the field and led the Oles in scoring with a total of 20 points. Riley Aeikens ’16, Justin Pahl ’16 and Austin Majeskie ’17 contributed 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Majeskie also contributed six blocks, an individual best.
This win builds on the success of last year’s squad. Last year, the Oles won the regular season MIAC title. All but one of last year’s starters returned to this year’s lineup.
The performance by St. Thomas was not without notable moments. Tommie guard Grant Shaeffer led the team, scoring 20 points. Taylor Montero scored 15 points while Cortez Tillman brought in 11.
St. Thomas was hot coming out of the gates, building a daunting 22-13 lead that was quickly shortened by a St. Olaf 12-4 run. After the Oles secured a lead during the second half with just under 13 minutes left, the Tommies failed to regain the momentum they found during the first half of the game as the Oles cruised towards victory.
In addition to an impressive offensive output, St. Olaf dominated St. Thomas in several key statistics. St. Olaf was 16 for 20 at the free-throw line and secured the majority of rebounds, holding St. Thomas to 29 while grabbing 36. St. Olaf’s defense denied St. Thomas good looks on perimeter shots, with St. Thomas only making slightly over 40 percent from the field.
St. Olaf is next slated to play North Central College in the first round of the NCAA Championships this Friday, March 4 at 5:00 p.m. in De Pere, Wis.