The Augustana Vikings faced adversity in both of their games last week, but Augie, the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, was able to split its CCIW contests against Wheaton and Carroll.
On Wednesday night, the Vikings faced off against the Wheaton Thunder at the Carver Center. Falling behind by as much as fifteen in the second half, the Vikings were able to reduce the deficit to two with six minutes remaining in the game. However, the comeback bid, led by Junior, Nolan Ebel, with 19 points and six rebounds, fell just short as the Vikings lost by a score of 86-81.
On Saturday, Augustana then hosted the Carroll Fighting Saints and were put on upset alert once again. Down 10 points early in the second half, the Vikings were able to complete the comeback this time, pulling out a 66-62 victory.
Ebel contributed 17 points and six assists, and Junior, Chrishawn Orange, also added 17 points to the winning effort.
“Obviously we’re not happy with the loss, but I think it was a good learning experience for us,” Orange said. “Wheaton was a very good shooting team and hit some tough shots, and we were in foul trouble the entire game, but we still had opportunities to win at the end. We knew what we had to do to get better and learn from that loss and were able to come back and get a big win against Carroll.”
Now six games into the CCIW schedule, the Vikings currently hold a conference record of 4-2, leaving them tied for second place with North Central, Wheaton, and Carthage.
The Vikings, who have been atop the CCIW the previous three seasons, believe they have plenty of room to improve moving forward.
“I think we can be better,” Orange said. “We need to become more consistent and bring it every time we touch the floor. The CCIW is a very tough conference where any team can win on any given night. We know we’re the team that every team wants to beat, so we’re going to get everyone’s best shot every night. We just need continue to prepare and play each game with a lot of energy and toughness.”
As a top ranked team in the nation and a continual force in the CCIW, Augustana feels like a team with a target on its back.
Senior and captain, Dylan Sortillo, acknowledges the challenge this poses for he and his teammates, but he believes that can be overcome with solid preparation and mental focus.
“I think we kind of understand we’re going to get everyone’s best shot, so we know we have to be sharp from top to bottom all the time,” Sortillo said. “That includes not only in the games, but in the practices leading up to the games as well and in the film room.”
With 10 conferences games still to be played, Sortillo is hoping the Vikings find some consistency and finish the season strong heading into postseason play.
“We need to focus on getting closer and better as a team each and every day, and then we can reach some of our season goals,” Sortillo said. “At Augustana, we always want to compete for championships, whether it be for regular season, conference tournaments, or national championships. The CCIW is so strong top to bottom, so you really have to come out with great focus and energy every game, and that should get us ready for a long road ahead.”
Augustana will be on the road this week for two CCIW contests. The Vikings play at Elmhurst on Wednesday night and then travel to North Park for a Saturday night showdown.