They preach defense.
They live by the motto “Defense, Rebound and Run.”
They held foes to under 70 points per game throughout the regular season.
Yet, the Augustana men's basketball team sports the most prolific offense through two games of the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.
The Vikings scored a whopping 218 points in rolling to two victories and into this weekend's Sweet 16, which they host at Carver Center. Coming into the NCAA Div. III Tourney, coach Grey Giovanine's club averaged a very respectable 77.5 points per game. In the first weekend of the tourney, they averaged 109.
“That's funny,” said junior guard Nolan Ebel when told the Vikings lead the tournament in scoring.
“Yeah, to heck with all the defense,” joked Giovanine wryly.
Augie came up with some amazing offense when the bridles were off and they got out and ran last weekend at Carver Center. It helped that they were forced to keep pace with a couple of highly potent offenses. The Vikings beat Greenville, the highest scoring team in the country, 123-111 and followed with a 95-83 win over Hope to move into the sweet 16.
“It was a blast,” said Ebel, talking about the wins as much as the electric atmosphere in the gym. “That's the most points we've scored in my time at Augustana. That game was fun because we were scoring a lot and everybody was contributing.”
Through the first 27 games of the season, the Vikings scored 90 points or more twice. They broke out early for a 109-51 non-conference victory over Rockford in mid-December and then beat Elmhurst 90-80 in mid-January in a road CCIW victory.
Members of the team laugh at the thought that people might see this Viking bunch as a prolific offensive team instead of a tough, hard-nosed defensive one.
“We pride ourselves on being the tougher team and getting on the floor and bloody our noses and keep coming at people,” said senior Dylan Sortillo, who exploded for a career-high 30 points on Saturday. “If we can do that, we've always got a good chance.”
No matter what they showed last weekend, the foundation of the Vikings' attack is built on the defense, which gave up an average of 68.7 points per game while securing regular-season and conference CCIW titles.
The players know that and pride themselves on their play on that end of the court.
“I think it's because we keep coming at you in waves,” said junior Chrishawn Orange of what makes the Vikings tough to play. “We don't give up, we keep coming at you and win it with our defense. We get stops down the stretch and keep flying down the court on both ends. Once you do that, teams don't want to play against that. That's why we're tough in the tournament because we do the best three things — that's defense, rebound and run. When we do those, it's tough to defend.”
But you could see that they had fun putting up all the points. And they may have to do that again this weekend as the 24-5 Vikings will need good efforts at both ends of the court. Friday's foe is 25-5 John Carroll University, which averages 98.8 points per game, the fifth-highest average in the nation.
In tourney action, John Carroll is third in postseason scoring with 186 points, behind Plattsburgh State's 190 points.
“It's another high-powered offense,” said Giovanine. “... They really extend the press — it's not to the extent of Greenville, but along those same lines. They are very much about extending the defense, playing fast, shooting 3s.
“My hope is that our experience against Greenville helps. I would expect we'll do a lot of similar preparation things for this game.”