Vikings advance to fifth straight Sweet 16

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Madison Williams

The Augustana Vikings (26-3) overcame a back and forth battle in their second round NCAA tournament game winning 85-72 over Capital University (21-8) on Saturday, March 2.
The teams saw seven ties and 10 lead changes in the game. Neither team lead by more than eight points, keeping a high level of intensity in the packed Carver Center.
This win allows the Vikings to advance to their fifth consecutive Sweet 16 next weekend. The seniors, including captain Chrishawn Orange, have been in this position all four years of their Augustana careers, so they know how special this victory is to the fans and the team.
“It feels fantastic to win that way and in that fashion, having the community and the students back,” Orange said. “It was fun.”
The Vikings started the game strong, keeping a steady lead for the first nine minutes of the game. When the Vikings were up by eight points, their largest lead of the night, the Crusaders then went on an 8-0 run to tie the game.
After starting off the game in the lead, the Vikings struggled closer to the half. The Crusaders shot a buzzer three-pointer to make the score 35-41 at halftime.
Augustana opened the second half with multiple baskets, but then Capital earned their biggest lead of the night, 46-54, with 12:59 left to go.
The Vikings regained their lead with 9:46 left after four different Augustana players made four consecutive three-pointers: senior Brett Benning (10 points), senior captain Nolan Ebel (27 points), junior Pierson Wofford (18 points) and Orange (15 points).
These four players have experienced this NCAA tournament road before. Head coach Grey Giovanine said how their leadership helps the whole team feel prepared.
“I think you saw the best of Augustana basketball. The character of this team, the experience, the tenacity, the togetherness,” Giovanine said. “Most teams get down in that kind of pressure and they splinter. These guys came together.”
Even after the Vikings’ three-point shooting spree, they found themselves down to the Crusaders 60-61 with 7:40 left.
This sparked an Augustana 8-0 run to gain one of their biggest leads of the night. The Vikings never lost their lead after this. Wofford said how the crowd’s energy helped the team be more confident in their shooting.
“When you get that momentum going and the crowd gets into it, it’s hard not to think ‘We’re on the run, we’re about to come back,’” Wofford said.
After trailing by eight earlier in the second half, the Vikings then held an eight point lead over the Crusaders with 2:10 left. Augustana’s offense clicked better in the second half, bringing the team to victory.
Augustana will host their familiar CCIW team Wheaton College (21-8) on Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. for the Sweet 16 at the Carver Center. The Vikings won over Wheaton in both games during the regular season.
 
Photo courtesy of Maria Do
Caption: Nolan Ebel (‘19) drives the ball to the hoop past Capital guards junior Dan Auble (#13) and senior Austin Schreck (#3). The Vikings won 85-79. The Vikings advance to the Sweet 16 game against Wheaton on Friday, March 8 at the Carver Center.