After a tough defeat against the Illinois Wesleyan Titans earlier in the season, the Augustana Vikings (16-4) redeemed themselves winning 88-79 in a close, rivalry game on Wednesday, January 31.
Coming off a loss at home against Carthage the Saturday before, the Vikings needed a confidence booster. With the help of the packed crowd at the Carver Center, the team had an extra level of confidence to keep the lead throughout the game.
Even though Augustana could sustain their lead the whole game, it was senior captain Dylan Sortillo’s two minute 11 point run in the second half that helped solidify the win for the Vikings.
“I just wanted to come out in this game and be aggressive and try to make a difference,” Sortillo said. “It’s why you train all those hours in the off season for moments like that.”
Sortillo also scored his season high of 21 points. A major difference from the first game against the Titans in the season in which Sortillo scored his season low of 0 points.
It was improvements like these that the team were focused on making in this rematch game. Head coach, Grey Giovanine, said there was a heightened level of excitement for this game because of everything on the line in terms of conference standings.
“It’s a key victory at a critical time in the season,” Giovanine said. “To beat our long time conference rival gives us a big step in the league race.”
The Titans still remain in first place in the CCIW rankings, but the Vikings are now only one game behind them. And with four regular season games remaining for both teams, there is still a possibility that the Vikings will head into the CCIW tournament as the first seed.
Due to the heated rivalry between the two teams, fouls were a big problem for both teams in this matchup. Augustana had 25 total fouls and Illinois Wesleyan had 31 fouls in the course of the game. In the last minute of the game, the Vikings added 8 points from free throws alone.
Augustana received two technical fouls as well, one within the first six minutes of the game from the bench and one from Sortillo following his 11 point run. Sortillo said his emotions had gotten the best of him. Illinois Wesleyan also had one technical foul.
Despite the foul trouble, the Vikings were able to keep the lead the majority of the game with the exception of two tied moments in the first half. Junior captain Nolan Ebel (21 points) said how the team was focused on communicating as a team to hold the Titans back.
“We knew we were going to come out with a lot of energy,” Ebel said. “We just carried out that energy and carried off of each other and played through each other and that’s what really gave us the lead.”
Looking forward, the Vikings are staying focused on one game at a time with the hopes of finishing well in conference and making a good run in the NCAA tournament. Freshman, Carson Frakes, said how this win against the Titans gives the team the extra confidence and energy they need to finish out the season.
“This win puts us back on the right track of playing the way we know we can play and it gives us the confidence for the rest of the year,” Frakes said.
The Vikings have two home games left of the season on Saturday, February 17, and Tuesday, February 20.
Photo Above: Augustana Junior Joe Kellen goes up for a lay up during the Viking’s game against Carthage. Photo by Kevin Donovan