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February 17, 2010

2009-10 Season - Viking rally comes up short against IWU

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Augustana battled back from a 13-point first-half deficit, but was unable to complete the comeback against Illinois Wesleyan Wednesday night at Carver Center, falling to the Titans 62-59. The loss drops the Vikings to 15-9 on the year and 8-5 in the CCIW. Illinois Wesleyan improves to 19-5 overall and 10-3 in the league.

Brandon Kunz (Lake Zurich HS, Lake Zurich, Ill.) scored the game’s first basket, giving Augustana its only lead of the night, before the Titans went on a 9-0 run capped by a bucket by Travis Rosenkranz. Rosenkrans’ traditional three-point play with 8:17 left in the half gave Illinois Wesleyan its biggest lead at 24-11 and they matched it 16 seconds later when Edmond O’Callaghan’s jumper put the Titans up 26-13.

Illinois Wesleyan put the clamps on the Vikings top two scorers Kyle Nelson (Deerfield HS, Deerfield, Ill.) and Matt Pelton (Bloomington, Ill. Central Catholic HS, Houston, Texas) early, holding each scoreless through the first 16 minutes of the game, but they combined for seven points in the last 3:38 of the half to help Augustana cut into the Titan lead. Nelson’s short jumper at the halftime buzzer made the score 35-27 at the break.

Paced by Pelton and Nelson, the Viking offense began to find its rhythm in the second half. Pelton scored 14 in the second stanza and finished with a team-high 16 on the night. After Illinois Wesleyan briefly built the lead back up to double digits at the 14-minute mark, a basket by Kunz, a free throw by Nelson, a trey from Pelton and a bucket by Mike Avallone (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville, Ill.) cut the Titan lead to four at 45-41—the closest the Vikings had been since early in the first half.

Another Pelton three-pointer at the 9:13 mark made it 50-47. Duncan Lawson’s three-point play with just under six minutes remaining pushed the Titan lead back to eight at 57-49, but the Vikings had one more run left. Avallone’s bucket with 1:28 remaining capped an 8-2 run and cut the IWU lead to 59-57. The Titans’ Doug Sexauer and Pelton traded baskets to make it 61-59 with a minute left.

On Illinois Wesleyan’s next possession the Vikings fouled Sexauer, a 55-percent free throw shooter. The Titans’ leading scorer hit one of two to make it 62-59 and giving Augustana a chance. A three-point attempt by Pelton from the right corner rattled out and the Vikings were forced to foul O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan missed both freebies with eight seconds left but the best Augustana could manage was a desperation three by Pelton which bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.

Nelson joined Pelton in double figures with a dozen points and he also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Avallone gave the Vikings a nice lift off the bench with nine points. Kunz added eight. Rosenkranz paced Illinois Wesleyan with a game-high 17. Jordan Zimmer added 10.

The Vikings held the Titans to .370 shooting from the field in the second half and outshot them .490 to .451 for the game. They also matched IWU from three-point range with each team hitting five of 14 (.357). However, IWU connected on 11 of 14 free throws while the Vikings converted just four of nine. Wesleyan held a 31-28 edge on the boards as well.

Augustana finishes the regular season by hosting North Central at Carver Center on Saturday, February 20, at 7:30 p.m. The Vikings will be playing in the CCIW tournament the following weekend at a site to be determined.