It wasn't always pretty, but when the Augustana College men's basketball team needed to execute and get points late in Tuesday's nonconference battle, it managed to do just that.
The Vikings hit five of six free throws in the final :28.5 and then held their breath as a half-court shot rolled off the rim at the buzzer as the hosts secured a hard-fought 64-61 victory over Illinois College at the Carver Center.
“We really dug in on the defensive end and that might have been one of our better defensive performances of the season,” said Daniel Carr, who hit some key buckets throughout and finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. “But we really need to tighten up some of our offensive stuff — especially the quick shots and the turnovers. We just played a bit too frenetic; we were just a little off.”
Augie moved to 4-2 despite some major offensive struggles. Without sophomore shooting guard Carter Duwa, who missed his second straight game because of an ankle issue, the Vikings shot just 37% (22 of 59) from the field and looked out of sync most of the night while committing 14 turnovers.
“Certainly offensively was a challenge,” said first-year Augie coach Tom Jessee. “Not having Carter Duwa in there really hurts us offensively; he's such a key offensive component. Not playing very well offensively and shooting it, but decision making was a little suspect — we took some quick shots.
“But with all that said, I told our guys that if you shoot 37% for the game and win, that means you fought. You really fought. And that's what they did. That's the only way you can win a game like that, is if you keep fighting every defensive possession.”
After battling for a 32-28 halftime lead with a game-changing spree to end the first half, the Vikings never lost the lead in the second half, only allowing the 4-3 Blueboys to tie it twice (at 37 and 54). Each time the game was tied, the Vikings found enough offense to get back the lead.
When the Blueboys tied it at 54 with 4:44 left, the defense came up with a couple of stops before Matt Hanushewsky (10 points) gave the Vikings a lead they never lost with a three-point play with 3:12 remaining. A Carr bucket at the 1:52 mark made it 59-55.
After Illinois College pulled within 59-58, the Vikings hit five of six free throws — Carr making two, Nate Ortiz splitting tosses and Luke Johnson (team-high 17 points) swishing two more for a 64-61 lead with :02.4 left.
IC's Troy Burrows took the ensuing inbounds pass and got off a contested shot from six feet beyond mid-court that banked softly off the board and rolled around the rim before falling off after the buzzer had sounded, ending a physical game between two scrappy clubs.
“It was not pretty,” said IC coach Steve Schweer, a former Illinois Wesleyan player familiar with the Carver Center. “... We're better offensively than what we showed tonight (41% shooting on 25 of 60 from the field), but that's a credit to Augie and their defense. Ever since I've known where and who Augustana are, they're going to get after it defensively.”
That defense turned the game late in the first half.
After battling back to tie the game at 21 on a Johnson fast-break drive, the Vikings hit an offensive dry spell, going eight trips without points and falling behind 28-21 with 3:59 left in the opening half.
A triple by Johnson at the 3:06 mark ended that drought and spurred an 11-0 Viking run to close the half for that 32-28 halftime lead.
In that run Carr had a bucket and split free throws, and Nic Giliberto a bucket before Johnson capped it with an old-fashioned three-point play with :32.0 left.
Augie tuned the tables in the final four minutes of the half with eight defensive stops, helped by the Blueboys' 37.5% shooting (12 of 32) from the field.
“At the end of the first half, they put a nice run on us, I think it was 11-0,” said Schweer, whose club was led by Jake Mazrimas's 12 points. “That really turned the tide. We played them basically even in the second half, but we needed a little bit more.”