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February 6, 2010

2009-10 Season - Second half defense key to win at #23 Carthage

An absolutely suffocating defense in the second half helped turn the tide as Augustana went on the road and handed 23rd ranked Carthage a 70-59 defeat in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday, February 6.  Earlier this season, on January 16, the Vikings had dropped a 69-64 home court decision to the Red Men. During the early going of this game, things didn’t look good for the visitors.

After the game was tied 4-4 in the early going, Carthage seized control and went on a 15-6 run to go up 19-10 with 13:09 left in the first half. The Red Men kept pouring it on and with 3:02 remaining before intermission, Mitch Thompson tallied on a conventional three point play and the score was 38-22. That 16 point lead looked monstrous but the Vikings dug down defensively. They forced four missed shots and a turnover for the rest of the half against the Carthage offense. Meanwhile, freshman George Dexter (Bettendorf HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) hit a pair of free throws, junior Kyle Nelson (Deerfield HS, Deerfield, Ill.) scored on back to back layups and freshman Kameron Norton (Downers Grove North HS, Downers Grove, Ill.) hit a basket with 1:13 left. Suddenly it was 38-31 and that is the way it stayed at halftime.

The 9-0 run at the end of the first half turned into a 15-0 run when Augustana tallied the first six points of the second stanza. Suddenly it was a one point ball game when Brian DeSimone (Buffalo Grove HS, Wheeling, Ill.) scored with 17:28 left to make it 38-37 in favor of the Red Men. Carthage scored the next six points to bump its advantage to 44-37 with 15:19 left in the game.

That is when the defensive vice really started to tighten and the Vikings went on a 12-4 run. Nelson scored with 11:29 left to play to give the Vikings a 49-48 lead. It was an advantage they would never relinquish. The contest stayed close and with 4:08 to play Carthage used a pair of free throws from Steve Djurickovic to cut the lead to one point (58-57).

Nelson came up with one of the decisive plays of the game when he scored a basket off an assist from Chris Anderson (West Carroll HS, Mt. Carroll, Ill.) at 3:55 and added a free throw after he was fouled. That made the score 61-57. Carthage missed a three point field goal attempt and Matt Pelton (Bloomington Central Catholic HS, Bloomington, Ill.) hit two free throws at 3:38 to push the lead to six (63-57). After a Red Man turnover, Nelson scored at 2:54 to make it 65-57. A basket by Carthage’s Mitch Thompson dropped the margin to six (65-59) at 2:35 but Nelson came to the rescue once again for the Vikings. He collared a missed shot by teammate DeSimone  and made a basket at 2:20 to make it an eight point lead (67-59).

Pelton scored at 1:39 to push the advantage into double digits (69-59) and DeSimone capped the scoring with a single free throw at 1:15 to make it 70-59 and that is the way the game ended.

In the second half Augustana allowed Carthage just four field goals in 26 attempts for a paltry .154 shooting percentage, including a two for 16 performance (.125) from three point range. In all, the Vikings outscored the hosts 39-21 in the second stanza. The Red Men shot just .315 (17-54) from the field for the game.

Augustana shot a sizzling .619 (13-21) from the field in the first half and then hit at a .500 clip (12-24) in the second half to finish at .556 for the game.  Nelson was impressive with 24 points on 10 of 14 from the floor and four of six from the free throw line. He pulled down a game high 13 rebounds as the Vikings tattooed the Red Men on the backboards to the tune of a 39-24 advantage. Anderson came off the bench to add 14 points to the Augustana cause. Norton pulled in eight rebounds while Pelton had five assists and DeSimone four.

Steve Djurickovic led Carthage in scoring with 21 points but he was just four of 13 from the field. The Red Men made just seven of 29 three point field goal attempts.

Augustana, which has now won three games in a row, is 14-7 overall and 7-3 in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin. The Vikings were 2-2 at one time in the league race but have now pulled within a game of the league leading Red Men, who are now 16-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference.

Augustana now plays four straight games at home to finish out the 2009-10 campaign, starting with a 7:30 p.m. matchup on Wednesday, February 10 against Wheaton.