In a highly anticipated matchup, No. 10 Augustana would withstand a late rally by rival Sioux Falls to take home a 76-70 road victory on Saturday in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play. The Vikings' record improved to 6-1 (2-1 NSIC) on the season with the win. The Cougars fell to 5-2 (1-2 NSIC) with the loss.
The Vikings' Emily Schulte set the tone for Augustana on Saturday, both offensively and defensively, bringing a swarming defensive mentality that caused mayhem to Cougars backcourt players on one end of the court, and displaying her sharpshooting skills on the other end. Schulte was part af a Viking defense that forced 23 turnovers, while finishing with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. The Sioux Falls, S.D. native also grabbed four rebounds and had four steals.
Both teams came out looking to establish their style of play early, with the Vikings playing aggressive defense on the Cougars. Augustana's efforts paid dividends early, forcing nine turnovers, putting the Vikings up 17-16 just a little over halfway through the first half.
Sioux Falls' size would present a problem for Augustana in the first ten minutes of the game. The Cougars lineup of Sam Knecht and Laura Johnson took control of glass and gave Sioux Falls a 15-7 rebounding edge early, resulting in second-chance point attempts.
Rhianna Gullickson's layup at the 8:32 marker ignited a 10-2 Vikings run that saw Augustana take a 27-23 lead.
Sioux Falls would continue to keep themselves in the game, despite the turnovers, with a 7-0 run of their own with 2:25 remaining in the half. The Cougars' Taylor Varsho started the run on a made three pointer, then Marie Mallory hit back-to-back layups giving Sioux Falls a 34-33 lead.
Sioux Falls would take 38-37 lead into halftime, the first time that Augustana would enter the half trailing this season.
Augustana shot 42.9 percent (15 of 35) in the half, while the Cougars shot 48.4 percent (15 for 31) from the field.
Schulte and Gullickson provided the offense for the Vikings in the first half, combining for 24 of Augustana's 37 points. The duo shot a combined 10 of 16 (62.5 percent).
The Cougars had a 23-14 rebounding advantage in the first half.
The Vikings forced 13 Sioux Falls turnovers in the half.
The second half started with a bang for Augustana. The Vikings continued their relentless defense, forcing three early turnovers and triggering an 11-2 run, resulting in a 48-40 lead for Augustana. Shaunteva Ashley would make her presence felt during the run, scoring seven of the Vikings' 11 points.
Augustana would continue to build on its lead, pushing it up to 15 with 9:09 left in the game on a Sophie Kenney layup.
The Cougars refused to let this one get out of hand and would make a late rally, going on an 11-3 that was sparked by a made pair of free throws by Knecht.
Sioux Falls would cut the lead down to as low as three points, by attacking the basket and getting to the line late in the half. Jaicee Ulmer would be the catalysis for the Cougars, going 4 for 4 late from the foul line.
Johnson would hit a three with one minute remaining, cutting the Viking lead to 73-70.
Schulte though would then answer with the play of the night, a beautiful drive to the basket and a great bounce pass through two Cougars' defenders in the paint to a wide open Gullickson, who converted the layup, putting the Vikings up 75-70.
Augustana would stop Sioux Falls' last attempt by Ulmer with Ashley securing the rebound and making the one of two from the line, locking up the 76-60 win.
The Vikings shot a season-high 45.5 percent in the game (30 of 66). Ashley put on quite a second half display, scoring 13 of her 18 points. The junior also grabbed all five of her rebounds in the second half.
Schulte's pass to Gullickson with 41 seconds remaining in the game, putting Augustana up 75-70.
• Ashley's six assists tie her season high.
• The Vikings' 15 steals were a new season high.
• Schulte's 20 points give her two 20-or-more point games this season.
• Augustana ties is longest winning streak of the season with third-straight win.
• The Vikings improve to 5-0 when four or more players score in double figures.
Augustana returns home to take on Concordia-St. Paul on Friday at the Elmen Center. Tip-off is scheduled 6 p.m.
Courtesy: Tim Evans, Sports Information Director, Augustana College