Seniors Bobby Fong, Mark Wieloch, and Stu Neville look on in the closing minutes of a 77-58 MIAC Playoff Quarterfinal loss to Bethel on Wednesday night at Bob Gelle Court.
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Oles bounced in MIAC quarterfinals as Fong and Neville are held quiet

Michael Abdella
February 22, 2012

NORTHFIELD, Minn. - Greg Meyer had 17 points and Daniel Baah 16 as Bethel University defeated host St. Olaf 77-58 in the first round of the MIAC Men's Basketball Playoffs on Wednesday night at Bob Gelle Court.

Bethel (16-10) led by 11 at the break and shot 59.4 percent from the floor in the second half in the lopsided win. Kyle Zimmerman and Taylor Hall scored 15 and 13, respectively for the Royals in the win.

Connor Gunderson had 18 points and Sterling Nielson 14 to lead St. Olaf (16-10).

After Mark Wieloch opened the game with a three, St. Olaf missed its final nine threes of the half and managed just 20 points before the break.

Bethel went on a 21-4 run in a 12-minute stretch of the first half to take command of the game. During the run, St. Olaf made just 2-of-14 shots from the field. Zimmerman had six points and Baah had five as Bethel seized control. Another key to the Royals run was rebounding and getting to loose balls first. For the game, the visitors outrebounded the Oles 42-35. Hall and Kellan Dahlquist each had 10 rebounds for Bethel.

A Nielson jumper with four seconds on the clock cut the deficit to 31-20 at the break. Nielson carried the Oles offensively in the first half, hitting five of seven shots for 10 points.

In the opening minutes of the second half, St. Olaf cut the Bethel lead to eight on two occasions but the Royals responded to keep the Oles at bay. Fong opened the half making three of four free throws but could not get a shot to fall from the field.

Gunderson, who went 7-for-9 shooting, trimmed the deficit to 37-29 with 14:46 to play with a layup but that was as close as the Oles could get as Bethel scored the next ten points over the span of 2:10. Four of the five Royal baskets were layups, including two from Luke Buttenhoff.

After finding themselves down by 18, the Oles could not get enough shots to fall and Bethel's lights-out shooting in the second half saw them lead by as many as 28 in the second half. The 10-0 Bethel run was part of a 12-minute stretch where the Royals outscored the Oles 33-15 to end any hope of a late St. Olaf rally. In the final minutes, the Oles managed to get within 20 with a full court press but it was far too late.

Bethel's red-hot second half saw them finish the game at a 48.4% (31-64) clip. St. Olaf did not manage to shoot over 33.3% in either half, finishing at 32.1% (18-56). The Oles jacked up 17 threes as they tried to come back but made just two. St. Olaf got in the bonus by the midway point of the second half and shot 20-25 at the charity stripe but could not muster enough stops to come back. Both teams took pretty good care of the ball. Bethel committed nine turnovers, while St. Olaf committed 10 but it was the Royals' knack for getting most of the loose balls that was key.

The loss was in the final game of the Ole careers of seniors Fong, Neville, and Mark Wieloch. St. Olaf ends their season with a 16-10 record, including a 15-5 mark in the MIAC. The 15-5 conference record is the best mark for an Ole team since the 1988-89 squad went 16-4. Bethel improves to 16-10 and advances to play top-seeded St. Thomas on Friday. In the other quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Saint John's topped fourth-seeded Augsburg 47-45. The Johnnies will travel to face second-seed Gustavus on Friday.

Contact media relations specialist Mike Ludwig at (507) 786-3834 or ludwigm@stolaf.edu.