Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Vikings end NCAA run after loss to Wheaton in Sweet 16


The Augustana men’s basketball team’s historical season came to an end this year in the Sweet 16 after losing 79-93 to their fellow CCIW team, the Wheaton Thunder on Friday, March 8 in the Carver Center.
The Vikings finish the season with a 26-4 record after competing in their fifth-straight Sweet 16 appearance, something not many teams have done.
Head coach Grey Giovanine was proud of his team regardless of the end result. After their successful season, Giovanine still praises his team’s accomplishments.
“Five straight Sweet 16s is nothing short of remarkable,” Giovanine said. “Would we have liked to win another one? Absolutely, but you always want to win another one until you get to the end.”
The Vikings were able to hold back the Thunder for the entirety of the first half after starting down 0-2. Augustana led by as much as nine points after senior Brett Benning (11 points) made his first three-pointer only seven minutes into the game.
Within the next seven minutes, the Thunder caught up to the Vikings trailing by one point. The rest of the half was a back and forth scoring battle until Augustana ended up leading 36-30 at halftime.
The Vikings’ defensive strategies were not as successful in the second half of the game, in which the Thunder scored 63 points. The leading shooter in the nation, Wheaton’s Aston Francis, shot 24 points alone during the second.
After winning the previous two matchups this year, the Vikings couldn’t stop Wheaton’s shooting power. Benning talked about how the Vikings struggled defensively when trying to catch up with the Thunder.
“It’s always hard to beat a team three times in one year,” Benning said. “They’re a good team and Francis is a really dynamic player and tough to stop.”
Augustana held their lead until 13:28 left in the second half when Wheaton went up by one 46-47. The Vikings were then up 49-47, but never regained the lead after.
For seniors Nolan Ebel (23 points), Chrishawn Orange (20 points), Joe Kellen (2 points) and Benning, this would be their final game played in the Carver Center and in their college career.
While the loss was at first shocking and difficult to believe, Ebel said how the Vikings want to keep their heads held high.
“All good things come to an end,” Ebel said. “We’re going to win with class and lose with class.”
Although much of the Augustana community expected a long-lasting NCAA tournament run for the Vikings, the standing room only Carver crowd was sure to give their praise at the end of Friday night’s game. This group of seniors have brought four years of successful basketball to Augustana, and the community is thankful for every minute they played on the court.
“These seniors have been phenomenal,” Giovanine said. “I don’t know if we’ve had a harder group in terms of working and commitment. Their record speaks for itself. It’s going to certainly go down as one of the great classes in the history of Augustana basketball.”
Photo by: Alia McMurray
Caption: Augustana senior Nolan Ebel drives the ball to the basket during their game against Wheaton on Friday, March 8. The Vikings lost 79-93.

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    Roberta JohnsonMar 10, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Great Article! Great team and very nice guys ! They should be very proud for they had a great season! Good luck to Coach Grey with his up coming surgery! Looking forward to next season!

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Vikings end NCAA run after loss to Wheaton in Sweet 16