ROCK ISLAND — In the first meeting of the season, Dylan Sortillo was shut out when the Augustana men's basketball team was drubbed by 19 points by Illinois Wesleyan.
On Wednesday, the Augustana senior made sure that wasn't going to happen. In one key stretch late, Sortillo erupted for 11 straight points for the Vikings, helping spur a gutty 88-79 Vikings victory over the league leaders.
“That was a senior stepping up in a big way,” said Augie coach Grey Giovanine after his nationally ninth-ranked club moved to 16-4, 8-3 in the CCIW.
While the Titans (16-4, 9-2) answered all 11 of those points to keep things interesting, the Vikings — fittingly — scored the final eight points of the game from the free-throw line to remain in second place in the league race and pull a bit closer to the leaders with five games left.
“I thought our team played with tremendous energy and effort tonight,” said Giovanine. “I don't think we've always done that, But they responded to the moment, playing a Top 20 team and the league leader. Every time they made a run, our guys responded in a big way.”
The Vikings got off to a good start with Sortillo hitting the opening 3 in a game the hosts never trailed and were tied last at 10. Augie opened a lead as large as 14 in the first half before IWU closed to within 41-35 at halftime. The Titans then battled back ion the second half and drew as close as one, but Augie never lost the advantage.
Nolan Ebel and Chrishawn Orange each hit four free throws to seal the deal for the Vikings (16-4, 8-3 CCIW). Augie was 29 of 37 from the line in a game in which 69 fouls were called and 68 free-throws were attempted.
“We knew the implications coming in and had our backs against the wall,” said Sortillo. “We just wanted to have maximum effort on the defensive end and wanted to be the aggressors. We knew if we could do that that we could have a chance and for the majority of the game, we did that.”
“That was a tough game,” said IWU coach Ron Rose. “It was a hard-fought game and I'm proud of my guys. I thought we battled a lot of adversity and still had a shot at the end.”
But it was the Vikings getting revenge for a blowout loss as Sortillo and Ebel each score 21 points. Orange added 14 and Brett Benning 12 in a game in which Augie used 12 players, searching for the right combinations and keeping the pressure on the guests.
IWU was led by Colin Bennett's 21 points and Jason Gregoire's 18. Despite foul trouble, Brady Rose added 16 points, being held in check as the Titans were just 8 of 22 on 3-point shooting.