Augustana routs crosstown rival USF in front of home crowd

On a night with a lot to celebrate, the Augustana Vikings Men’s Basketball team delivered, routing their crosstown rival USF 81-65.

The crowd was into it right away on Friday night at the Elmen Center with a tribute to Coach Billeter’s 300 wins at Augustana, and the return of the old mascot, Augie Doggie, for one night only. Along with the honoring of all the Augustana student-athletes who achieved a GPA of over 3.0 at halftime.

With 3,027 fans at the game, the Elmen Center was loud and packed. White and Purple filled the stands and jabbered back and forth for most of the night.

“Man whatever you can say to those students and that crowd,” Head Coach Tom Billeter said, “That was fabulous those guys were awesome.”

Freshman forward Michael Schaefer led the charge for the Vikings with 23 points on 7-16 shooting, he also shot a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line.

“The crowd definitely helped lift us to victory tonight,” Schaefer said, “when you have a crowd like that it’s tough to beat us.”

Augustana (16-10, NSIC 12-8) had an exceptional first half, blowing on all cylinders. Defensively they held USF (17-9, NSIC 12-8) to 22 points, the lowest they’ve scored in the first half this season. The Cougars shot 22 percent from the field in the first half, and they were 2 for 12 from the 3-point line.

A key factor in that first half was that the Vikings forced Trevon Evans, the Cougars leading scorer, to only 5 points on 1-8 shooting. In the first matchup between the two earlier in the season, Evans scorched Augustana for 33 points shooting 11 for 22.

“Pressuring him all the time and never worrying about helping off him or other players,” Billeter said about the game plan this time around against Evans, “He’s a great player, he’s a great player, he can really shoot.”

Offensively, the Vikings were on fire the whole night, shooting 49 percent in the game and 50 percent for the 3-point line. Along with Schaefer, Freshman guard A.J. Plitzuweit and Freshman forward Trevor Hanson scored 13 points each.

Hanson recorded his second double-double of the season, both of them coming in the last three games. Plitzuweit had 9 assists and shot 3 for 6 behind the arc.

In a game that the Vikings never trailed, they went on multiple runs, including a 13-5 to start the game, and a 16-7 run near the end of the first half capped off by a Jameson Bryan 3-pointer at the 2:51 mark that electrified the crowd.

After a missed shot, Bryan hustled for the loose ball, got it to a teammate while jumping out of bounds, then found himself open in the corner where Plitzuweit got the ball to him after yet another offensive rebound to erupt the gym.

Two minutes later, Bryan sunk another 3, getting the Vikings to the 50-point mark in the first half. After the shot went in Bryan looked to the student section, stuck his tongue out and cheered. The only thing Billeter could do was smile and chuckle from the bench.

In the second half, the Cougars started off on a 9-0 run, with star Trevon Evans finding his groove, but nothing could bring them back from the 28-point deficit.

The Vikings went back and forth with USF the rest of the way when the Cougars had something going on offense, Augustana would go down and hit a big three. Beau Keeve hit a clutch 3-pointer at the seven-minute mark to end a Cougars 8-2 run, bringing the score to 72-53.

At the final buzzer, the crowd erupted one final time and the Vikings extended their win streak to four games.

The Vikings ended their regular season at the Elmen Center on Saturday at 5:30 PM with a 77-73 victory against SMSU (15-12, NSIC 10-11) and are now tied for the No. 1 spot in the NSIC South with Minnesota State Mankato.

Augustana will play in the first round of the NSIC tournament against the University of Minnesota Crookston on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 in the Sioux Falls Arena. Tipoff is set to start at 7:30 p.m.

Click to enlarge and view the photo gallery below.

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