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ISSUE 117 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/27/2004

Basketball finishes season strong

By Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, February 27, 2004

The St. Olaf Mens basketball team finished their season on a high note by notching a 72-64, come-from-behind victory over Hamline Saturday night at the Skoglund Athletic Center.

The Oles topped off their season-ending surge with their third win in a row and fourth in their final six games.

In what was the final collegiate game for seniors Nate Lund, Matt Schenkler, Ryan Kersaw, and Dave Berglund, the Oles came out flat in the first half, shooting only 33.3 percent from the field while missing on all seven of their 3-point attempts.

The team retreated to the locker-room at half time having scored only 23 points and facing a ten-point deficit.

"Senior night is a pretty emotional night, and I think the guys were playing on a lot of emotion [in the first half]," said head coach Dan Kosmoski. "We might have come out a little too excited, and we were doing some things that werent characteristic [of our team]."

With their offense struggling, it was improved defensive play that propelled the Oles back into the game in the second half. Steals by Ted Gonsior 05 and Jon Butala 07, followed by a clutch 3-pointer by Gonsior, brought the Oles to within a point at 43-44 with 10:04 left to play.

On a night dedicated to seniors, it was sophomore guard Will Johnson who provided a much-needed spark off the bench for the games final seven minutes.

Johnson, who scored 12 of his season-high 16 points in the second half, was the main catalyst in a 14-0 Ole run that saw St. Olaf turn a six point deficit into an eight point lead that they would never relinquish. Johnson connected on all seven of his shots in the second half, including three from beyond the ark. All told, the Oles scored 49 points in the second half, their highest total for any half all season.

"Johnson had the game of his career [on Saturday]," said Kosmoski. "He made some big shots, and had some key steals down the stretch. For Will, I think this something he can take into next year."

Kosmoski was also appreciative of the home crowd, which was one of the seasons largest and was extremely vocal during the teams comeback.

"The crowd was great&They were definitely a big part of that win," said Kosmoski.

Lund played well in his final game, bringing down a game-high 10 rebounds to go with his 11 points.

Butala and Gonsior also chipped in with 10 points apiece for the Oles.

The Oles finished the season with a 10-15 overall record, compiling a 7-13 mark in MIAC play. The final conference standings leave St. Olaf in eighth place, two spots removed from the playoffs.

While the season may not have gone entirely according to plan, the Oles improved late-season play has given Kosmoski good reason to be optimistic about the future.

"Weve got a whole lot of guys coming back next year, and thats a real positive," said Kosmoski. "As much as well miss the seniors, weve still got plenty of [returning] guys who have a lot of game experience."

With Saturdays victory and their season-ending winning streak, the Oles have sent a clear message to the rest of the MIAC: Just wait until

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