Augustana tried on its new No. 1 national ranking for size Tuesday night in a backyard battle against cross-river rival St. Ambrose.
Bryant Voiles made certain it was a perfect.
The Vikings senior forward scored 29 of his 38 points in the second half to lead Augustana to a hard-fought 83-75 victory in front of a standing-room only crowd at Lee Lohman Arena.
"We knew it would definitely be a physical game. It always is when it it's Ambrose and Augie," Voiles said. "That's the way it is, and we just had to keep working."
The Fighting Bees forced the undefeated Vikings to earn their fourth win of the season on a day when Augustana ascended to the top of the NCAA Division III poll for the first time since January, 1982.
Eight of the game's 14 lead changes came in the second half as Voiles and the Vikings found their shooting touch following a 31-percent start from the field that helped St. Ambrose stay within a 32-31 lead at the break.
"Voiles had an unbelievable second half," Bees coach Ray Shovlain said. "It seemed like he made every shot he took, but our guys hung in there. At the end, four or five plays made the difference."
Voiles scored eight straight points midway through the half, moving Augustana ahead to stay at 56-55 with three straight free throws with 10 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game.
He followed with a 3-point basket on the Vikings' next possession, and St. Ambrose came no closer than two points the rest of the way.
"At about the 10-minute mark, I thought our guys elevated their energy level. We had a big 3, Kameron Norton had a follow-up slam and that seemed to fuel everybody," Augustana coach Grey Giovanine said. "Voiles was an all-American. He made big shot after big shot. Our seniors stepped it up. It means a lot to them to finish undefeated in their careers against St. Ambrose."
Voiles' 7-of-9 shooting in the second half included a 4-of-6 touch from 3-point range.
"I definitely started to feel it after the half. I got things going, and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball," said Voiles, who also led the Vikings with 10 rebounds.
Freshman Nicholas Frazier kept the Bees close, scoring 19 of his team-high 26 points in the second half, including 12 of his team's 16 during one stretch as the teams traded leads.
"We did a lot of good things, gave a great effort, but we weren't quite as consistent as we needed to be," Shovlain said. "We didn't block out on a free throw, had an unforced turnover, missed a shot there in one stretch that let them extend their lead late. We were right there, though, with a team that's ranked No. 1 in the country."
The effort and intensity started early for St. Ambrose (3-5), which held its own on the boards with Augustana throughout the first half while limiting the Vikings to two second-chance points.
"We played a little tentative early," Giovanine said. "We weren't playing our game and they had something to do with it. St. Ambrose gave us everything we expected in a backyard battle."
Chris Donnelly, who underwent an MRI on Monday because of a knee injury which had sidelined him for more than a week, came off the bench to finish with 18 points in 31 minutes for the Bees, while Mike Kennedy had 12 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds.
"We got off to the type of start we needed to get off to," Shovlain said. "We just need to get a little more consistent."