SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – MSU Moorhead, the No. 5 seed in the North Division, had no answer for the combination of Shaunteva Ashley and Emily Schulte on Wednesday. The duo combined for 55 points in a 90-79 Augustana win in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament. The No. 4 seed in the South Division Vikings' record improved to 16-11 with the victory. The Dragons fell to 16-11 with the loss.
Ashley led the way for Augustana with 30 points, just five short of her career high. The former Roosevelt star just continued her efficient scoring ways going for 11 for 16 (68.7 percent) while handing out four assists.
Schulte finished the night with 25 points and put on quite the marksman display, drilling a career-high seven 3-pointers in the win. The Sioux Falls, S.D. native's ability to hit key threes at critical times throughout the game was something to watch on the evening.
Riley Nordgaard notched her fourth double-double on the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Augustana. Nordgaard also had five steals in the game, and once again displayed her grit-and-grind style of play by battling for loose balls and rebounds all night.
Sophie Kenney gave the Vikings a huge lift off the bench, scoring a career-high nine points, all in the second half, in the win.
Megan Strese was the star for MSU Moorhead, scoring 31 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in the loss.
Morgan Zabel chipped in with 14 points and four assists for the Dragons.
A combination of tough Augustana defense and the ability to get into the running game played a huge part for the Vikings tonight, as they outscored MSU Moorhead 22-11 in fastbreak points.
Augustana was able to get the 3-point shot going in the second half, finishing the evening 12 for 31 (38.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The Vikings are now 8-1 this season when making at least 10 threes in a game.
Back-and-forth action started the game, with the Dragons taking a 10-9 lead at the 14:27 mark. Strese was solid on the block early for MSU Moorhead, scoring six of the Dragons' first 10 points and grabbing three rebounds.
The Vikings responded with Ashley scoring five straight out of the media timeout, giving the NSIC's second-leading scorer seven points early in the contest, and Augustana a 14-10 lead.
A Katie Meister 3-pointer with 10:12 remaining in the first half capped off a 14-4 Viking run over 5:45 to put Augustana up 19-12 at the under-10 minute media timeout. The Vikings' defense really stepped up the pressure, holding MSU Moorhead to tough shots that allowed for Augustana to get its transition game going.
Run-and-gun play continued to cause the Dragons problems, as the Vikings pushed their lead to 15 at 29-14 on an Ashley layup with just over five minutes until halftime. Ashley's layup was the 11th fastbreak point already on the night for Augustana.
Two late Schulte threes closed out the first half in style for the Vikings, giving them a 43-29 lead at the break.
Ashley (18) and Schulte (11) each found their scoring touch in the first 20 minutes of play.
The big difference in the first half was the running game, with the Vikings holding a 16-0 lead on fastbreak points over MSU Moorhead.
Augustana's defense helped limit the Dragons to just 32.1 percent shooting (9 of 28) in the first half, while the Vikings shot a solid 42.8 percent (16 of 38).
Strese led all MSU Moorhead players in the first half with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Dragons came out fast in the in the second half, cutting the Viking lead to seven at 43-36 after a Strese layup at the 17:34 marker. It was the senior's fourth point to the half.
Augustana took a 50-42 lead into the under-15 media timeout. Schulte had the three ball going, hitting four on the game already going into the timeout.
The Vikings got some momentum coming out of the media timeout with an 11-3 in just under three minutes to put them up 16 at 61-45 after Ashley made a pair of free throws.
Ashley upped her total to 28 after nailing the short-corner jumper - giving her 10 points in the half - on the right side of the floor to put the Vikings up 13 at 65-52.
Sophie Kenney came off the bench to provide a nice stretch for Augustana a little over midway through the second half, scoring seven points in a three-minute to push the Viking lead back up to 14 points at 77-63 with just 4:39 remaining.
Augustana put this one to bed after a beautiful offensive series in which the Vikings broke the Dragons' press, swung the ball around the perimeter to Schulte in the corner, who drained her career-high seventh three giving her 23 on the night and putting Augustana up 83-67 with just 3:02 left in the ballgame.
The Vikings went on the win 90-79, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Northern State.
Now that's a 1-2 punch: Ashley and Schulte combining for 55 points on 20-of-34 shooting (58.8 percent). The backcourt duo also combined for seven assists and just two turnovers. The tandem easily burned MSU Moorhead on the offensive end, using a variety of ways to get good looks at the rim and knock down open shots.
Up next: Augustana is set to for a rematch with the North Division's No. 1 seed Northern State (22-5) on Saturday at 12 p.m. The game will be at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Courtesy: Augustana Chris Smith