Champions! Men's basketball tops Tommies to win MIAC playoff crown
March 2, 2014
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Justin Pahl had 20 points and Sterling Nielsen 16 as visiting St. Olaf defeated St. Thomas 63-53 in the MIAC Men's Basketball Playoff championship game on Sunday afternoon.
The win gave the Oles (22-5) the MIAC's automatic bid the NCAA Division III tournament, which will begin this weekend. The entire field will be announced on Monday at 11:30 a.m.
Taylor Montero had 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead St. Thomas (22-5), which was held to a season-low 53 points. The loss snapped the Tommies' 16-game, on-campus postseason winning streak.
Connor Gunderson added nine points, including six in the final 5:28. He spent most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble.
St. Olaf trailed in the opening minutes of the first half by as many as six, but a Nielsen three-pointer with 9:39 left in the opening frame gave the Oles an 18-15 lead. UST would never lead again.
St. Olaf pushed the lead to eight with 12:43 left, but UST went on a 7-0 run to close it to one. The teams then traded four scores before Nielsen and Gunderson combined for five straight to make it 53-47 with 5:28 left.
St. Olaf made 15-of-19 free throws in the second half and 27-of-34 in the game. UST was 12-for-20 from the charity stripe.
The appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament will be the first for the Oles. St. Olaf made three appearances in the NCAA tournament in the early 1970s before the association split into three divisions.
The title is the first basketball championship of any kind since the St. Olaf men shared the MIAC regular season title in 1988-89.