SIOUX FALLS –The first few minutes of Wednesday’s NSIC Tournament first round game looked like it would be an easy Augustana win, but the NSIC North’s No. 4 seeded Bemidji State Beavers made the No. 5 seeded Vikings out of the south division work for their 88-72 win in the Elmen Center.
Teams take a win any way they can get it this time of year, and with theirs, the Vikings improve to 16-13, and advance to play Southwest Minnesota State, the conference’s top seed in the south, on Saturday in the tournament quarterfinals.
The Beavers season comes to an end with a 12-16 record.
Augustana opened the game on a 12-0 run, and built the lead to as many as 18 points at 24-6 less than 10 minutes in, but the Beavers fired right back with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 24-15 few minutes later, and then tacked on a 16-0 run later in the half to not only get back into the game, but take a 37-35 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.
Andy Kerkman snapped the run with 38 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 35-all, and then after the Beavers got it right back on the other end, Marcus Asmus tipped in a shot at the first half buzzer to send the teams into the locker room knotted at 39.
Trailing 47-45 three minutes into the second half, the Vikings capped a 7-0 spurt with a five point trip down the floor to go up 51-47 with 16:38 left, but that lead didn’t last, as six of the game’s eight lead changes and four of the seven tie scores came in the next seven minutes, before a Jordan Spencer jumper put the Vikings up for good at 61-60 with 9:23 left in the game.
Augustana put the game away a few minutes later with a 9-0 run that turned a 68-65 lead into a 77-65 advantage with less than five minutes on the clock, and then removed all doubt down the stretch at the free throw line.
Spencer led four Vikings in double figures with 21 points, adding 10 assists for the game’s only double-double, his fifth of the season. John Warren finished with 20 points, while Adam Dykman added 19 and Matt Cartwright 12 points in the win.
Sharif Black scored a game-high 22 points in the loss, with Jai’Vionne Green adding 17, Logan Bader 12 and Christian Pekarek 10 points in the loss.
The Vikings advance to the NSIC Tournament Quarterfinals for the sixth straight season, and face the team that eliminated them last year in Southwest Minnesota State. The Vikings and Mustangs tip from the Sanford Pentagon on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
NOTES: Wednesday’s game marked the 2,198th game in program history … Augustana leads the all-time series with Bemidji State, 15-6, with wins in each of the last seven meetings, a 7-2 advantage at home and a 3-0 record in the NSIC Tournament… the Vikings improve to 14-7 all-time in the NSIC Tournament, with a 6-4 mark in the first round and a 2-3 tournament record at the Elmen Center … the Vikings led at some point in 28 of the 29 games this season … the Vikings did not attempt a first half free throw for the third time this season (Jan. 26, vs. Minnesota Duluth and Jan. 27 vs. St. Cloud State) ... Augustana used the same five starters in all 29 games ... Spencer tied the school record for career starts with 129, and can set a new standard on Saturday with his 130th career start ... Spencer’s fifth double-double of the season gives him 10 for his career.
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