The Augustana men’s basketball team and its four true freshmen starters shocked the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks Friday night in Mankato, Minnesota at the Taylor Center. Equipped for a monumental comeback against Minnesota State, the Vikings overcame a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Mavericks on their own court in a double-overtime victory, clinching their thirteenth straight winning season in thrilling style.
Following the big win, Augustana head coach Tom Billeter said, “I’m glad and proud of them. The young guys—and the team—just keep getting better.”
Sinking more than half their shots and scoring 49 points in the second half, the Augustana men thrust the offensive fueled contest into the team’s first overtime game of the year, scoring 25 points total in overtime to secure the hard-fought 97-90 win over the Mavericks.
Vikings 6’ 8” freshman Trevor Hanson, 6’ 6” freshman Michael Schaefer and 6’ 2” freshman A.J. Plitzuweit combined for a dominant 67 points and 24 rebounds, while the Mavericks’ upperclassmen—consisting of Carlos Anderson, Cameron Kirksey and Kevin Krieger—were held to a combined 55 points throughout the contest.
Despite the Vikings first-half deficit, all five Augustana starters had career performances. Notably, Hanson recorded a dominating and career-first double-double. After scoring 29 points in the previous game against St. Cloud State, Schaefer put up 25 points and had 53 percent shooting from the field.
Reflecting on the team’s effort and mindset, Schaefer said that the team is “ready to play against anyone.”
Freshman Dylan LeBrun, who averages six rebounds per game, secured eleven strong rebounds for the team and further contributed with a season-high six assists in the double OT victory.
Knocking down 25 points with eight free throws against the Mavericks, Plitzuweit recorded more than 22 points for the fourth time on the season.
Highlighting the Vikings’ performance, Billeter said, “They’ve got pride, and they want to win,” and added that the loss to the Mavericks earlier in the season helped the team stay focused.
Augustana’s comeback Friday night was not without effort at the defensive end of the court. The Mavericks scored just 34 points in the second half, scoring only one of 12 shots from beyond the arc.
With just under three minutes left in regulation, the Vikings sunk a mid-range floater to take their first lead of the game, which was followed by a huge three, giving Augustana a 68-64 lead. In the final seconds of regulation and tied at 72-all, the Vikings’ defensive effort forced the Mavericks incapable of attempting a last-second shot, sending the contest to overtime.
Billeter said that the team, “has to play hard, play smart and play together,” which the men demonstrated in overtime.
With just over one minute remaining in OT, the Viking men led 78-75 after splitting free throws, sinking a jump shot and hitting an open three in transition. Later, unable to score and tied at 78-all, the Vikings forced the game into its second overtime, where Plitzuweit, Hanson and Schaefer led a fast-paced 6-0 run, and a pair of dunks thrown down by Hanson capitalized the Vikings’ lead and secured the team’s dynamic 97-90 win over the Mavericks.
Following Friday’s huge win at the Taylor Center, the Vikings continued their win streak, topping Concordia-St. Paul 83-78 on the road. Billeter recorded his 400th career victory and the team grabbed its sixteenth win of the season.
Illuminating the importance of Saturday’s win, Billeter said, “What’s hard is to play double overtime, get on a bus, and have to play twenty hours later against Concordia,” whose squad consists of guards Isaiah McKay and Bryndan Matthews who are two top-ten scorers in the league.
The Vikings will now look to extend their three-game win streak and record big wins tonight at 7:30 p.m. against USF, and 5:30 p.m. against Southwest Minnesota State at home tomorrow at the Elmen Center.
The Vikings stand strong at 16-10 on the season and are 7-4 at home.
Facing an important final two regular season games, Billeter said, “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We do what we do, and hopefully, it’s good enough to win.”
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