Men’s basketball heads to postseason after exciting Upper Iowa win

Men's basketball

AU basketball defeats Upper Iowa 92-87 in overtime

Jacob Knutson

 

After Upper Iowa tied the game 75-75 with two free throws and Augustana committed a turnover with 4 seconds left in the game, the Vikings found themselves uncomfortable with déjà vu.

In the same bind at Upper Iowa on Jan. 20, the Vikings allowed the Peacocks to drain a last second 3-pointer, giving the Peacocks the win.

But at the Sioux Falls Arena Saturday, Feb. 18, after the Peacocks missed a buzzer-beating three-point attempt,  Augustana hit its stride in overtime, securing a 92-87 win in its regular season finale.

Coach Tom Billeter said the team doesn’t enjoy playing with their backs to the wall, but they managed the pressure better than they did in the last showing against Upper Iowa.

“It was just a hard game,” Billeter said. “They’re just good, but both teams played far better than the first time they met each other, that’s for sure.”

Ending the first half, Augustana trailed by 37-30 and shot a dismal 35 percent overall, compared to Upper Iowa’s 50 percent.

Billeter said the Vikings got lucky.

“Well, we didn’t think we played well at all,” Billeter said. “In fact, we thought we played as poorly as we did all year, and we were only down seven. We should’ve been down 17.”

During halftime Billeter told the team to be patient and shots would fall.

And they did. IN the second half, Augustana shot 51.5 percent, just above Upper Iowa’s 45 percent. Heading into overtime the improved shooting carried over.

With 3:58 left in overtime, senior forward Mike Busack nailed a three, allowing Augustana to clinch the lead 80-79 and run with it.

After a succession of free throws from junior point guard Jordan Spencer and senior guard Adam Beyer, the Vikings widened their lead to 92-84 with 15 seconds left.

Upper Iowa, in a last-second rally, answered back with free throws and a dunk to close their deficit to 92-87, but the push just wasn’t enough.

Augustana finished overtime hitting four of six baskets , including two beyond the arc, and made 7-7 free throws.

The Augustana seniors, receiving recognition for Senior Night before tipoff, pulled their weight and more throughout the win.

Senior forward Mike Busack ended the game with a career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds and broke the 1,000 career points mark.

Busack said because the game would be his last regular season showing, he wanted to give it his all and leave without regrets.

“I’m not scared taking those shots, being a senior,” he said. “I know this is my last chance, and if I go out there and not take a shot, I know I’ll kick myself in the butt later. You know, you can’t make the shots you don’t take.”

Going 8-13 from the field, senior forward Zach Huisken also finished a career-high 18 points, and pulled down 3 boards.

Jordan Spencer, who added 13 points and eight assists to the cause, said the “stale” offense in the first half was a wake-up call.

“We knew we played pretty poorly,” Spencer said. “But we knew that if we could play some defense and contain their point guard we knew we could be in a good place at the end of the game.”

With the win the Vikings finish the regular season 21-7, including 16-6 in the conference, giving them a rush of momentum heading into the NSIC tournament. They play Norhtern State in the second round Sunday, 8 p.m. at the Sanford Pentagon.

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