SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Augustana erased a 16-point first-half deficit to take the lead late, but went cold in the final five minutes as Minnesota State Moorhead won 78-76 on a late layup with five seconds remaining on Friday. The Vikings dropped to 13-10 and 9-10 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with the loss, while the Dragons improved to 15-8 (11-8 NSIC) on the year.
The Vikings overcame a rough shooting night and a 16-point MSU Moorhead lead in the first half, to seize control the lead late in the second half as part of 24-10 run Augustana run, but went the final 4:32 without a made field goal.
The Vikings were led by Shaunteva Ashley, who put up 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists on the evening. Riley Nordgaard notched 15 points and nine rebounds in the loss. Emily Schulte, needing just 10 points to reach 1,000 for her career, finished with eight points. Schulte, limited by foul trouble, remains two points away from the milestone.
Morgan Zabel led the Dragons with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting (50 percent). It was Zabel's fourth 20-point outing this season. Megan Strese recorded her seventh double-double in the win with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Augustana hung tough despite a sluggish start shooting, trailing 13-7 at the first media timeout. The Dragons were able press their size advantage, taking a quick 9-3 lead on the glass and getting 10 of their first 13 points in the paint.
A banked-in 3-pointer while being fouled for Haley Thomforde gave MSU Moorhead its first double-digit lead of the game at 21-11 with 12:32 left. Thomforde converted the free throw for the rare four-point play, putting the Dragons up 22-11.
Rhianna Gullickson snapped a 14-2 MSU Moorhead run with her layup at 11:27, bringing the score to 27-13 in favor of the Dragons. It was the Alexandria, S.D. natives' 10th point of the half in just the first 10 minutes.
MSU Moorhead's hot shooting continued after a Zabel 3-pointer put the Dragons up 16 – their biggest lead of the night - at 36-20. It was the senior's 12th point of the first half, and MSUM's fourth made three in the period on six attempts.
Augustana got some offense going late, using a quick 6-0 run to cut the Dragon lead to 10 at 36-26 going into the under-five minute media timeout.
The Vikings adjusted their game plan coming out of the timeout, abandoning the long-ball approach of a drive-and-kick offense, and started aggressively attacking the rim with Schulte and Ashley spearheading the charge.
The results immediately showed, as Augustana would fight its way back into the game using a 9-0 run over just 91 seconds to trail 40-37 with 1:46 until halftime. The Dragons had no answer to the speed of the Vikings' guards and their ability to penetrate the lane.
MSU Moorhead countered with a 7-0 run over the final 1:23 to go into the half leading 47-37.
Zabel led all scorers with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (55.5 percent) in the first half.
Augustana kept in the game despite a rough 34.2 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes (13 of 38) compared to The Dragons 56.3 percent (18 of 32) with their ability to get into the paint late in the half.
A Sydney Rome 3-pointer cut the Dragon lead to five at 53-48 early in the second half. It was Rome's only points of the game, and part of a 14-8 run by the Vikings to start the half.
Augustana ran into some trouble after Schulte would pick up her fourth foul of the game with 13:22 remaining. Ashley, as she has all season, raised her game to compensate for the loss, scoring the next seven points for the Vikings, bringing Augustana to within one point at 59-58 with a little over 11 minutes left in the half.
The Vikings continued effort and determination was finally rewarded after an Alex Kneeland connected on a three-pointer from the top of the key, giving Augustana their first lead since early in the contest at 66-63 with 7:30 left. Kneeland's three was part of 24-10 Vikings run that completely changed the momentum of the game to that point.
MSUM refused to go away though, and Handevidt's back-to-back baskets brought MSU Moorhead to within two at 74-72 with three minutes left in the contest. It was the Stillwater, Minn. native's 15 point of the game.
The Dragons tied the game up at 76 on a Banasik layup with one minute left.
Nordgaard got a good look but the missed the jumper with 36 seconds left, and MSU Moorhead came up with the rebound and one final possession for them. The Dragons brought the ball up the court and initiated their offense at the top of the key. Zabel delivered the game-winning bucket with five seconds remaining after getting to the paint and scoring the layup.
Ashley pushed the ball up the floor for one final shot and missed a 12-foot floater to tie the game and force overtime, giving MSUM the 78-76 victory.
Tough way to finish
The Vikings getting on a roll on offense in the second half, but going cold at the worst possible time, finishing the final 4:32 without a made field goal.
• Ashley has now scored at least 18 points in nine-straight games.
• Augustana is now 2-8 when shooting under 40 percent this year.
• The Vikings eight turnovers tied a season low.
• Augustana is 2-3 this season when shooting more than 30 3-pointers in a game.
• Nordgaard has had at least nine rebounds in five-straight games.
• The Dragons 52.6 shooting percentage was the first time an opponent has shot over 50 percent against the Vikings this year.
Up next, Augustana returns to action on Saturday against No. 17 Northern State (19-4, 15-4 NSIC). Tip is at 4 p.m. at the Elmen Center.
- Chris Smith, Augustana