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Archival TBT: Bob Gelle dominates the 1971 Midwest Conference


March 12, 1971

St. Olaf completed what may be its finest basketball campaign of all time last weekend with victories over Grinnell 107 to 67 and Cornell 78 to76.

The Grinned triumph clinched an outright Midwest Conference championship for the Oles, who finished the league season with a 17-1 mark. Their over-all record was 20 and 2 — the two losses coming to Valparaiso and Ripon.

It was the second outright Midwest Conference cage crown for the Bob Gelle-coached Oles. They won it in 1969 and shared the crown in 1965. Previously, St. Olaf teams won Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles in 1929 and 1930, with the legendary Mark Almli supplying the spark.

The 1970-71 Oles smashed records wholesale. Among the new marks set were: most individual points in a season — Dan Halvorsen with 465 (previous — 450): Most field goals in a season — Halvorsen with 167 (previous — 165); best field goal percentage — Dave Finholt with .562 (previous — 528); best free throw percentage — Mark Schroeder with .857 and Mike Smieding with 818 (previous — .771); most team points in a season — 1945 (previous — 1781); most team points in a game — 105, 117, 107 (previous — 104); most field goals in a game — 47 (previous — 42); most wins in a season — 20 (previous — 17).

St. Olaf had a comparatively easy time with Grinned last Friday night, coasting to a 50 to 36 halftime margin and widening it in the second half. Reserves played much of the time. Dan Halvorsen, the sophomore forward from Owatonna, led the way with 26 points, followed by Eric Bundgaard with 19, and Bob Schumacher and Rolf Iverson with 14 each. Bob Burnett had 24 for the Pioneers.

Cornell came to town Saturday, determined to play Jack the Giant Killer again after subduing second-place Ripon a week before.

The first half was tight with the Oles fortunate to take a 42 40 lead into the dressing room. After intermission, the Rams took up where they left off, and, with Ed Ashmore scoring heavily, they took the play away from the Oles and held a 61-56 edge with just over five minutes to play.

Then, with the Rams sagging on the big Oles, guards Mike Smieding and Mark Schroeder took over. They scored 12 straight points on jumpers from the rim — with one interruption by the Rams’ Hal Myatt — to propel St. Olaf to a 68 to 64 edge with three-plus minutes left. The Rams continued to threaten but could not pull it out.

Smieding had 20 for St. Olaf, with the other starters — Halvorsen, Finholt, Bundgaard, and Schroeder — following with 19, 15. 10, and 10, respectively. Ashmore had 29 for Cornell and Ron Nussbaum added 17.

St. Olaf’s Midwest Conference champions were scheduled to meet Kentucky Wesleyan last night in the opening round of the Midwest regional NCAA college division basketball tournament at Kirksville, Missouri. The results were too late for publication.

If the Oles won last night, they will take the court tonight against the winner of last night’s other contest, between Northeast Missouri State, the host school, and North Dakota State.

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