AURORA — The Augustana College men's basketball team got just about everything it could have wanted in a season opener here Thursday night — including a harrowing 85-82 victory.|
The Vikings, playing six freshmen and four sophomores and without two of their tested veterans, watched a 21-point, second-half lead dwindle in the final 15 minutes. However, late free throws from sophomore Brandon Thompson and freshman Hunter Hill gave the visitors a three-point lead just before a desperation half-court shot banged off the rim after the buzzer.
"Eight of our 11 guys played their first college varsity minutes, and we hung on for a great win," said Augie coach Grey Giovanine. "I couldn't be prouder or more pleased with the outcome in our opener."
Making the victory even more improbable was that the Vikings were without two of their veteran front-liners. Senior George Dexter was out with a chronic back issue that flared up two days ago. Junior Kevin Schlitter has been hampered by a sprained ankle that occurred in last week's final scrimmage.
In their place, freshmen Tayvian Johnson, Ben Ryan, Jake Gylten and Brandon Motzel got plenty of court time along with sophomore transfer Nic Hoepfner. Johnson and Hoepfner are former United Township standouts. Giovanine said that he was watching Thursday's junior varsity game closely to get an idea of who was playing well and might fill some varsity minutes.
"These guys had never played a varsity game, and we're playing a team that's supposed to win their league; they are good," said Giovanine, who started Johnson (four points and five rebounds before fouling out) and Ryan (13 points in 22 minutes) and played Hill (five points) 11 minutes.
There was reason to think that Augie could be good, too.Especially if grizzled sophomore point guard Dan Jurgutis can repeat the effort he had in the opener. Jurgutis popped for a team-high 29 points, dished out three assists and grabbed four rebounds in 31 minutes before fouling out.
Also stepping up was senior front-liner Brandon Kunz, who finished 10 points and 14 rebounds.
"Dan was unbelievable." said Giovanine. "He had 29 points and just carried us when we needed him. I hope he doesn't have to give us that much every night because I don't think he can. That's a 30-point performance on the road, against a team that could be in the NCAA Tournament."
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