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ISSUE 119 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/24/2006

Kosmoski, Ole men ready for next step

By Matt Tiano
Sports Editor

Friday, February 24, 2006

After concluding their season Saturday with a 70-52 rout of St. Mary'’s, the St. Olaf men'’s basketball squad can conceivably apply the title of “roller coaster” to their description of their 2005-2006 campaign.

The season was defined by a series of streaks, some in the Oles’ favor and some not. The men finished with a record of 10-15.

The Oles began their season in relative style, and were off to a 3-1 start. Highlighting the opening week-and-a- half was a three-game winning streak, which included opponents Crown College, Martin Luther College and their opening conference game against Augsburg. During this stretch, the St. Olaf average margin of victory was an impressive 17 points.

Before the Oles could get comfortable in the early going, they suddenly found themselves in a huge hole. Losing nine of their next 10, this stretch would prove costly in the conference race. Eight of those 10 games were against key conference foes. The other two were close losses on their winter break trip to Daytona Beach, Fla.

“"We look at scheduling and see how everyone was productive, and the wide advantage can be seen in playing at home,"” head coach Dan Kosmoski said. “"Looking at our schedule, with Christmas Fest and other holiday festivities we couldn't use our home floor, forcing us to be on the road. On the road, it’s hard to build any momentum."”

However, the Oles somehow found some life, winning five of their next six games, highlighted by a 74-59 rout of a solid St. John’'s squad. Throughout this stretch, team defense was the factor, as they averaged only 56 points against. This also included an overtime loss at Macalester.

“"We responded very well despite the adversity,”" Kosmoski said. "“The Macalester game was the turning point because at that point we were still contending."”

Scoring was consistently a problem for the Oles, as they were often unable to counter strong defensive efforts with offensive production.

“"Anytime you hold a team under 60 points, you should win most of the time,”" Kosmoski said. “"Our biggest deficit was our perimeter shooting, which hurt us in our strong defensive performances against Bethel, Gustavus and Carleton, all conference powers.”"

Kosmoski points to team defense as the largest aspect of the Oles'’ intermittent success.

“"In our last ten games, excluding games against St. Thomas and Carleton, we are the best defensive team in the league,"” Kosmoski said.” "It is my belief that Jon Buttala was the best defender in the conference and he was a huge part during our run."”

Looking ahead to next season, the Oles lose only one senior, captain Chris Clark.

“"Chris has given us great leadership this year. The challenges he faced from last year to this year has made him an inspiration,”" said Kosmoski about his shooting guard.

Having everyone back will force Kosmoski to take steps to avoid complacency.

“"We'’ve moved up a step this year on the ladder, and our goal for next year is to continue building,”" he said. "“However, we cannot assume that having everyone back is the sole factor that will make us a playoff team."”

"“In all my years here at St. Olaf, this year'’s team was the closest in terms of chemistry,"” he said. “"When you want to talk about the word ‘team’, this year'’s team was an absolute joy to coach.”"

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