The Augustana men’s basketball team kept its undefeated season alive Saturday night with a conference win over Wayne State, 72-66. Following a victory for the women, the men played in front of 2,844 attendees at the Elmen Center.
The Vikings were able to get an early lead in the first five minutes. The Vikings led 15-2 only four minutes and 28 seconds into the game. The Wildcats were never able to take a lead.
“Playing at home is sometimes an advantage for the first five minutes, then teams tend to settle down and figure things out. We always stress 20 very important minutes in a game: the first five, the last five of the first half, the first five of the second half and the last five of the game…we did a good job the first five minutes Saturday night,” head coach Tom Billeter explained.
Augie was led by senior Cameron McCaffrey (16 points, five rebounds, 10-12 free throws, three assists, 36 minutes), but used a very balanced offensive attack.
Junior Brennan Olson added 11 points and led the team in rebounds with seven.
Freshman Zach Huisken came off the bench and racked up 10 points (eight in the first half), hauled in five rebounds and made 2-2 free throws. Huisken played 26 minutes, his most this season, yet picked up only one personal foul and did not turn the ball over; both were issues in the first four games. He shot a season best 57.1 percent.
“The guards did a really good job at pushing the ball in transition and finding me posting up early,” Huisken said. “They gave me the ball where I needed it and gave me opportunities to score.”
“Senior leadership is huge for the team and me personally. The seniors have taught me a lot of new things. They also have plenty of experience and are full of advice. So as a freshman I’m just trying to take in as much advice as I can.”
Freshmen Daniel Jansen made 3-4 from the field, including a baseline three and 2-2 free throws. He had four rebounds, but turned the ball over a season-high five times. Jamall Taylor contributed 8 points, aided by 2-3 from 3-point range.
Sophomore Alex Richter posted 8 points and spent the second-most time on the court, playing 29 minutes.
“We have a very deep and talented team,” Billeter said. “I believe our depth is a huge key in a league playing Friday/Saturday nights with two to three hour trips to the next location after the Friday night game. We have 22 conference games, of which 10 weeks are two games back-to-back, meaning we play a mini-tournament every weekend in arguably the best Division II Conference in the country.”
Using 10 players keeps fresh legs on the court, provides different looks and gets players experience, but it requires on-court leadership. With only two seniors, that means they carry an extra load.
“[McCaffrey] and Leif [Nomeland] (who has an injured shoulder and only played 7 minutes) have both been very valuable leaders this year. We only have two seniors so it is critical they step up and lend their knowledge and experience to such a young team,” Billeter said. “You win with seniors and we only have two so they have to take the actions of four or five seniors both on and off the floor.”
McCaffrey added, “I think leadership is a crucial element to any good team. I felt that our overall leadership and composure against Wayne State is what won us the game.”
With the win, the Augustana men stay perfect at 5-0 (1-0, NSIC). They will take on Southwest Minnesota State (4-4, 1-0) tonight following the women’s game. On Saturday the Vikings face USF (4-1, 0-1), accompanied by a performance from the highly-acclaimed F-M Acro Team.