ROCK ISLAND — Dylan Sortillo is a man of his word.
After being shut out of the scoring column in an ugly loss at Illinois Wesleyan last Wednesday, the senior guard responded to a social media game recap with: “Tough loss. This one's on me. Got to, and will be better.”
On Saturday, both the senior leader and the rest of the Augustana men's basketball team were much better. And they needed to be as the nationally second-ranked Vikings broke away from a tough Millikin team for a 66-49 CCIW victory at Carver Center.
Sortillo bounced back from his first collegiate shutout with a game-high 19 points — including 5-of-5 3-point shooting — and led the Vikings on both ends with his energy.
“I don't mind going 0-for-8 or whatever it was, and not scoring,” said Sortillo, a senior captain. “I didn't bring energy, enthusiasm or effort like I needed to. We were trying to get back in that and taking pride in what we were doing.”
That showed early in the second half when the Vikings used a critical 11-0 run to take a lead it never lost as the defense forced three turnovers and the Big Blue missed shots on four possessions.
Trailing 31-30, Chrishawn Orange (10 points) started the run with a drive to the bucket that gave the hosts a 32-31 lead at the 18:49 mark. After two defensive stops, Brett Benning hit a short jumper. That was followed by an Orange triple and a Sortillo pull-up jumper on a fast-break. Nolan Ebel (13 points, four assists) then forced a backcourt turnover that he turned into a bucket, but missed the chance at the three-point play.
“I thought that spurt in the second half where we stopped them five in a row really sparked us, and Dylan made a couple of big 3s to break it open," said Augie coach Grey Gioavnine, after watching his team get out-rebounded 36-26. “I thought we played with a little more bounce defensively and forced the issue. That first half, we let them dictate the pace.
“At halftime, we said we have to try to speed things up and take away some catches. I thought we did that pretty well in the second half.”
The Vikings, who forced 23 Millikin turnovers (13 in the second half), countered with just 14 turnovers to go with 16 assists on 22-of-47 shooting.
The victory was huge as a bounce-back, but also needed as Augie now entertains league-leading Wheaton (4-1) on Wednesday.
“We've got a three-game homestand and wanted to get off on the right foot,” said Giovanine. “Wheaton comes in here 4-1, so this is a key game, a hard-fought win.”