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ISSUE 120 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/14/2007

Men manuever into playoffs

By Matt Tiano
Sports Editor

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Coming off a 61-58 win at home over Macalester Feb. 7, the St. Olaf men's basketball team controlled its own destiny to claim its first MIAC playoff berth since the 2002-2003 campaign.

Following a road loss to Carleton, a win at Gustavus Wednesday, or a Hamline loss in either of its last two games and a Saint Mary's loss in either of its last two games would secure the sixth and final spot in the MIAC standings. The top six teams advance to postseason play.

Perhaps the Oles were caught with postseason fever, as the first half was plagued by sloppy play. St. Olaf managed several easy looks made possible by hard cuts and crisp passes, but missed several easy layups and second chances. Entering the locker room down 30-21, the Oles had to be feel fortunate to be trailing by just two points.

Despite the casual first half, a different St. Olaf team came out of the locker room, apparently aware of the implications at hand. Senior Jon Butala's steal with 16 minutes to play cut the Gustie lead to four. In addition, Butala added to an 8-0 Ole run with a fadeaway 10-footer, tying the score at 35.

Gustavus answered, but could not replenish the lead that they so easily developed in the first half. With the exception of the first three minutes, the Oles took their first real lead 43-41 with nine minutes to go, on a perfectly executed high-low play from Jon Bain '07 to Brady McMahon '09. McMahon scored all eight of his points in the second half.

Both teams traded baskets, but Mark Bergstrom '07 added three of his team-high 14 points with six minutes left, boosting the Ole lead to four. However, the sealer for the Oles may have been Bergstrom's big offensive rebound, drawing a crucial foul on the put-back attempt. He would sink both free throws, upping the lead to six. The only thing in the Oles' sight was a first round MIAC match-up with Bethel Monday night.

For the Oles to erase a nine-point halftime deficit and to outscore fourth-place Gustavus (who has secured a first round bye) by 15 in the second half, on the road, provides momentum moving forward for head coach Dan Kosmoski's club. The Oles will face third place Bethel in the first round.

St. Olaf split the season series with the Royals, victorious at home but falling in Arden Hills. Monday's contest is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Robertson Center in Arden Hills. A win would place the Oles in the semifinals Wednesday. Their potential opponent is yet to be determined, but will be a road contest.

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