WHEATON, Ill. — The pursuit of 300 career victories got a tad dicey down the stretch for Augustana men's basketball coach Grey Giovanine and his squad of Vikings.|
Up by 11 points with 2:19 left to go in the game, the key CCIW contest against Wheaton (15-7, 6-5) had all the ingredients of smooth and steady sailing toward the Vikings victory. However, the resilient Thunder bunch made waves in the closing seconds to cut the lead to one point with 19 seconds left. Augie (21-1, 10-1) held on for the 80-77 win by sinking clutch free throws down the stretch.
Despite the closeness, the 300-win head coach liked the poise.
"Our late-game execution offensively wasn't as good as we would have liked," Giovanine said, "but at the same time, the guys showed some great courage, stepping up to the free-throw line and making shots when we needed. It was just a tremendous effort in terms of mental toughness on the road."
Augie's Bryant Voiles, Troy Rorer and Brian DeSimone combined to go 6-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final 44 seconds of the game. DeSimone's freebies gave the Vikings a three-point edge with 17 seconds remaining. Wheaton's Andrew Jahns missed a jumper with five seconds left, and teammate Tyler Peters missed an attempted game-tying 3-pointer as time expired.
Giovanine was almost equally in awe of the first half as he was the courageous conclusion. Augustana scored 47 first-half points thanks to an almost absurd 61.3 percent shooting performance (19-of-31 from the field). Augie led 47-36 at the break.
"We scored 47 points on the road in the first half; that's remarkable," Giovanine said. "One of the keys we felt was that we really stayed aggressive, getting the ball to the rim. (Wheaton) played really good pressure extending defense. You can get tentative against that, but we really attacked the basket."
DeSimone led all scorers with 17 points for the game. Rorer and teammate Kyle Nelson had 15 apiece and Voiles finished with 13.
Giovanine said the cheers at the conclusion of the contest were loud and proud thanks to a well-traveled bunch of Vikings fans. It also helped that several of the Vikings players hail from the Chicagoland area.
Not a bad milestone-win celebration on the road. Giovanine, though, deflected all applause to his players.
"The one kind of reflection (300 wins) causes you to make is an appreciation for all of the terrific young men I've gotten to work with, and the staff I've gotten to be a part of," he said. "So many people are a part of this."