Garnering NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament MVP honors, Emily Schulte continued her tremendous four-game stretch and led the Vikings to an 81-73 win over Minnesota State to win the NSIC Tournament Championship. Augustana improved to 24-6, winning all four of their games in the conference bracket, while the Mavericks drop their fifth game of the year, ending the tournament with a 25-5 overall record.
Schulte poured in 19 points, swiped five steals, dished out four assists and grabbed four rebounds in the championship game. Over the four-game tournament, Schulte scored 74 points (18.5 ppg average), 14 assists, 17 rebounds, and nine steals.
The junior guard was joined on the All-Tournament team by fellow Vikings Andrea Whitney and Lydia Nelson. From Minnesota State Ali Wilkinson and Steffaney Thomas earned All-Tournament honors.
This is the first regular season or conference tournament title that head coach Dave Krauth has won in his 24 seasons leading the Augustana women’s basketball program.
The title game featured eight tie scores and 11 lead changes with both teams jockeying for the automatic bid to the NCAA Central Region Tournament. Augustana passed the ball extremely well as usual, racking up 19 assists on 26 made field goals and shot 41.3 percent from the field (26-63).
Whitney carried the Vikings in rough offensive stretches with 14 points and a career-high six blocked shots in 20 minutes of action. Whitney swatted 13 shots throughout the tournament. Whitney finished the NSIC playoffs with 36 points (9 ppg average) and 33 rebounds.
Nelson played her best once the Vikings arrived in Rochester, scoring 27 points in the final two rounds of the NSIC Tournament. Nelson also racked up six steals over the two games and gathered 15 rebounds over the entire tournament. The senior forward finished with 37 points over the four-game span.
The Mavericks raced out to a 6-2 lead aided by the Vikings settling for long jump shots, but as the half wore on, Whitney and Cami Koehn’s inspired play sparked Augustana’s comeback.
Schulte hit a three and fed Whitney for a jumper on the baseline to give the Vikings their first lead, 7-6. The Mavericks and Vikings then traded blows eventually reaching a tie at 16-16 after Koehn hit a corner three to halt an MSU scoring spurt.
The Vikings then reeled off a 10-2 run with Lydia Nelson hitting a pair of layups and Augustana doing some damage at the free throw line. The Viking lead reached its pinnacle at 28-20, but the Mavericks came charging back.
Allie Hoefer and Jamie Bresnahan combined for three 3-pointers leading an MSU charge that cut the Augustana lead. The Viking lead was trimmed to two points, 32-30, after All-NSIC first-teamer Wilkinson hit a layup.
The lead fluctuated between two and four points with both teams trading baskets, but Whitney and Faith Tinklenberg gave the Vikings a six-point cushion 1:10 remaining in the half. Bresnahan hit a pair of free throws after a Thomas layup.
Thomas then hit a three with four seconds on the clocks to take a 41-40 lead, but Schulte had different plans on ending the half. Schulte took the inbound pass and after three dribbles she fired a shot from the far side of the center circle and swished the 55-footer to give the Vikings a 43-41 lead at halftime.
Whitney turned in an impressive first half with 11 points in just eight minutes of playing time. Koehn also chipped in with eight points, five of which came from the foul stripe in the first stanza.
To open the second half, the Vikings looked to expand upon their lead. Allie Hoefer’s jumper tied the game, but Tinklenberg hit a three and Nelson converted a layup to give Augustana a five-point lead, 48-43.
The Mavericks then went on a 11-0 run to take a 54-48 lead at the first media timeout. Nelson and Schulte then scored six unanswered points to tie the game. Karlee Gengenbacher hit a 3-pointer then stole a Viking pass and converted the ensuing layup.
With the Vikings down five points once again, Schulte and Nelson led the charge. The two combined for the next seven points sparking a 12-0 run to give Augustana a 66-59 lead. Whitney converted an and-one to cap off the Viking scoring flurry.
MSU responded with Gengenbacher and Wilkinson getting out on the break with three layups to take back the lead, 67-66 with just over seven minutes to play. The Vikings finally stopped the MSU run when Schulte found Shaunteva Ashley in the corner and Ashley hit a three as the shot clock expired, giving Augustana a 69-67 lead.
Schulte hit both of her free throws in the bonus and Alex Feeney hit a turnaround jumper with 2:30 left to force a timeout by Minnesota State. With a six-point lead the Vikings just needed to hit their free throws to win the game.
Augustana did just that, led by the Tournament MVP herself. Schulte hit five of her six free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game to ice it for the Vikings; Schulte finished 7-10 from the foul line and shot 23-26 for the tournament.
Both teams committed 16 turnovers but Augustana stole the ball 12 times leading to 21 points. The Viking bench, led by Whitney and Koehn outscored the Minnesota State reserves 24-16 and Augustana used 14 offensive rebounds to tally 15 second chance points.
The Vikings held the Mavericks to 39.1 percent shooting from the field the 30th consecutive opponent this season that has shot below 40 percent against Augustana.
The Vikings earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Central Region Championships and now await their seed. The Selection Show will be aired on NCAA.com at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 10.
Courtesy: Eric Zahn, Assistant Sports Information Director, Augustana College