MARYVILLE, Mo. – No. 5 seed Augustana University men's basketball (24-8) used a strong second half to earn a 76-69 win over No. 4 seed University of Arkansas at Monticello (23-7) in the first round of the NCAA Central Region Tournament Saturday night. The Vikings out-scored the Boll Weevils 39-26 in the second frame, starting out the second half on a 13-0 run.
With the win, Augustana improves to 17-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Vikings are 7-1 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Mike Busack led the Vikings with 21 points on the night, scoring 17 alone in the second half. Busack was 10 of 14 from the field and added six boards. The 20-point performance by Busack marks his ninth of the season and his 12th career.
Zach Huisken recorded his first career double-double in the win, finishing with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Jordan Spencer added 15 points, eight assists and four rebounds for the Vikings while Marcus Asmus pitchced in with 12 points and four rebounds.
Augustana finished the game shooting 60 percent (33 of 55) from the field, including 35.3 percent (6 of 17) from 3-point range. The Vikings out-rebounded the Weevils 36-20 and scored 16 second-chance points.
Arkansas-Monticello was led by Derylton Hill who finished with 17 points. Tryin Jones and Cobe Goosby each scored 14 for the Weevils. UAM shot 47.5 percent from the field for the game after opening up at 54 percent in the first half. The Vikings held the Weevils to just 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half.
Both teams got off to a slow start from the field, combining to go 6 of 15 from the field through the first four minutes, and the Boll Weevils held an early 8-7 advantage. Arkansas-Monticello hit four of its next four shots from the field during a two-minute stretch to take a 15-11 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining the half.
The Vikings scored six straight and took the lead but the two teams would battle back-and-forth throughout the first 20 minutes. The first half saw four tie scores and eight lead changes, with the Boll Weevils holding a six-point advantage at the half.
Mike Busack gave the Vikings a four-point lead at 23-19 with two straight baskets nearing the midway point of the half before the Boll Weevils went on a 15-5 run over the next five minutes to build a six-point lead of 34-28.
Augustana stormed right back to get within two getting a pair of baskets from Marcus Asmus, including a trailing two-handed dunk, to make the score 34-32 with 3:50 left in the half.
Arkansas-Monticello hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes of the half and led by as much as eight before taking a 43-37 lead into the locker room.
Augustana finished the half shooting 57.1 percent (16 of 28) from the field, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range. The Vikings had eight turnovers in the half, leading to 11 points for the Boll Weevils. Asmus led the Vikings with 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting in the first frame.
Arkansas-Monticello shot 54.8 percent (17 of 31) from the field, hitting 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) from behind the arc. Hill led the Weevils with 12 points in the half and Tyrin Jones pitched in with 10, hitting three 3 of 3 from 3-point range in the first frame.
The Vikings came out firing in the second half, opening up on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 45 and force UAM to burn a timeout just under three minutes into the half. The two teams traded points for the next three minutes, playing to a score of 53-53 with 13:43 before the Vikings went on another tear to gain an 11-point lead at 64-53 thanks to a 13-0 run.
The Vikings led by as much as 15 in the final eight minutes of the game. Arkansas-Monticello turned up the pressure in the final minutes of the contest, forcing Augustana into seven turnovers. The Weevils scored 15 of the game's final 22 points but the Vikings built a large enough cushion to hang on for the win.
Augustana will play No. 1 seed and host Northwest Missouri State at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Bearcat Arena. The Vikings are making their seventh appearance in the region semifinals in the last eight trips, including their fourth straight. This marks the third straight season Augustana and Northwest Missouri State will meet in the NCAA Central Region Tournament.