Men's basketball uses big second half to beat Concordia
February 8, 2012
MOORHEAD, Minn.- After leading by three at halftime, the St. Olaf men's basketball team exploded for 46 second half points and cruised to a 81-64 victory on Wednesday night at Memorial Auditorium.
The Oles and Cobbers played a competitive first half with St. Olaf leading almost throughout. Concordia grabbed just their second lead of the game at 24-23 with 3:56 left in the first half after a layup by Dewon McKenzie. The Oles responded by pushing their lead to seven after a Nathan Kuck jumper with 1:28 remaining but the Cobbers scored the final four points of the half to enter the break down just three at 35-32.
St. Olaf started the second half red hot from the field. The visitors made seven of their first eight shots after the break and took a 52-37 lead with 15:35 to play after a 17-5 run. During the run, Bobby Fong, coming off a career-high 36 points against Bethel, scored nine points after a relatively quiet 11 point first half.
Over the next couple minutes, Concordia whittled the deficit to 53-44 after a Brandon Fisher jumper but the Oles quickly built the lead back up to 18. Other than a layup by Stu Neville, Connor Gunderson, who was scoreless in the first half, scored nine straight points during an 11-0 run by the Oles, who led by 17 with 11:09 remaining. After reestablishing a comfortable lead, St. Olaf cruised to the win. The Oles led by more than 20 points for the last six plus minutes of the game.
Coming off a career day, Fong had another big day offensively, scoring 27 points on 10-19 shooting and added four steals. Stu Neville, Gunderson, and Sterling Nielson all joined Fong in double figures with 14, 11, and 10, respectively. Concordia was led by Jacob Huus, who scored 16 points and had eight rebounds. Brandon Fisher had 12 on 6-9 shooting and Ebo Nana-Kweson scored 10 despite shooting just 4-15.
St. Olaf shot 32-62 (51.6%) for the game, including 18-31 (58.1%) in their big second half. The Cobbers finished 26-59 (44.1%) from the field. The Oles held a 38-28 advantage in points in the paint and a 25-6 edge in points-off-turnovers. St. Olaf forced 15 Concordia turnovers, while committing just seven of their own. Neither team shot well from behind the arc, as St. Olaf made five threes to just three for Concordia. One of the few statistical advantages Concordia held was a slender 35-32 rebounding edge.
The win moves St. Olaf to 13-9, 12-5 in MIAC play. With just three games remaining, St. Olaf is third in the MIAC and is two and a half games ahead of fifth place Saint John's. The Oles are half a game behind second place St. Thomas. Concordia falls to 5-12, 7-15 in the conference. St. Olaf returns to the court on Saturday looking to clinch a playoff spot when they host Saint John's at 3 pm.