For the second time in as many seasons, the Augustana men's basketball team will head into CCIW play needing to rally around the loss of a key player.|
It was learned this week that junior post player Kevin Schlitter is done for the season, sidelined by an ACL tear.
Making the timing even worse is that a young Augustana team, 10-1 and ranked No. 22 in the country, opens CCIW play tonight at the Carver Center against North Park (5-6) and will now be without a stabilizing presence in the middle.
According to Augie coach Grey Giovanine, Schlitter is rehabbing the injury to strengthen the knee and increase flexibility in preparation for surgery. That procedure, according to the coach, is scheduled for Jan. 10.
Schlitter has been hobbled by a bad knee since early December when he was hurt in a workout prior to the Vikings' game with St. Ambrose on Dec. 5. He was hurt again early in that 77-69 Viking victory and has played just once in the five games since.
He was again hurt in practice prior to Augie's last home game vs. Loras on Dec. 21. A subsequent MRI showed the ACL damage, according to Giovanine.
Schlitter does qualify to take a medical redshirt season. Giovanine said that issue will be addressed at the end of the season.
As for this season, though, it leaves the Vikings scrambling a bit, even with the return of fellow front-liner George Dexter from back issues. The coach said that Dexter, a senior from Bettendorf, has had three straight solid practices and is looking as if he is ready to see significant minutes.
"It really changes the dynamic of our team,'' said Giovanine of Schlitter's injury. "I thought we'd be really capable of slugging it out in the half-court, pounding the ball inside and probably play more zone to protect the basket.''
Now, once again, the Vikings are in flux. Last season, Augie was off to a 9-1 start before starting junior center Luke Scarlatta left the team for personal reasons after the holiday break. After that, the Vikings seemed to lose their identity, flow and confidence. Augie finished the season 19-7, 9-5 in the CCIW.
The Vikings must now again rally around change, losing a solid force in the middle who was averaging 9.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in just 15.5 minutes a contest.
"We're still looking for guys to emerge,'' said Giovanine.
The Vikings have four young post players who will now share minutes. Those are sophomores Nic Hoepfner (6-6, UTHS) and Alex Dziagwa (6-9, Riverside-Brookfield HS) and freshmenJake Gylten (6-6, Iowa City West HS) and Brandon Motzel (6-7, Carmel Catholic HS).
"Somebody from that group is going to have to emerge,'' said Giovanine. "We've had open auditions the last three days for guys who will be best to serve our needs.''
Which is a far cry from the situation the Vikings would have been in with Schlitter.
"With him, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound guy who can play, we're unlike most Division III teams,'' said Giovanine. "With him, there would be some nights that we wouldn't have to be our best. He would have been such a factor. Without him, our margin for error is greatly reduced.''
North Park Vikings (5-6) at Augustana Vikings (10-1)
Tonight: The Augustana Vikings (10-1), ranked No. 22 in the latest D3hoops.com poll, open CCIW play by hosting the North Park Vikings (5-6) at the Carver Center at 7 p.m. The evening starts with a women's game at 5 p.m. between Augustana (4-6) and North Park (9-2). Tuning in: This game, as well as all Augie contests, can be heard on the web at www.augustana.edu/vikingsvideo. Twitter updates: @TJ_DA.
North Park starters: F: Mark Holmes, 6-6, Sr. (19.7 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game); G: Zach Cassita, 6-2, Sr. (8.8, 2.8), Ryan Hyrn, 5-11, Fr. (9.5, 0.6), Chris Benjamin, 6-2, Fr. (9.1, 6.4) & Aaron Weaver, 6-6, Jr. (15.2, 5.6).
Augie starters: F: Tayvian Johnson, 6-6, Fr. (5.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game) & Ben Ryan, 6-5, Fr. (12.8, 7.5); C: Brandon Kunz, 6-7, Sr. (12.6, 6.5); G: Dan Jurgutis, 6-0, Soph. (11.8, 2.6) & Brandon Thompson, 6-1, Soph. (9.1, 2.6).
The series: Augustana leads the series 69-37 and has won 21 of the last 22 meetings. Augie's only loss in that span was a setback early in the 2007-08 season in Chicago. Augie has since won nine straight.
By the numbers: Augie comes in averaging 75.7 points per game and allowing 62.8. North Park, which fires up almost 20 3-pointers per game, averages 69.1 points and allows an average of 74.2. Augie is out-rebounding foes 38.9-26.6. Its 12.3 differential is fourth-best among all NCAA Div. III schools. NPU has been out-rebounded by an average of 37.6 to 34.3 per game.
-- By Tom Johnston, email@example.com
Sherrard, IL Details
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