SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Augustana women's basketball season came to a close on Saturday as Northern State held on late to win 67-62, eliminating the Vikings from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health Women's Basketball Tournament. Augustana finished up the year 16-12 with loss, while the Wolves improved to 23-5 with the victory.
The Vikings erased a 16-point halftime late in the game, tying the contest up with just 40 seconds left.
It was a tale of two halves for Augustana, using great ball movement and getting open looks, shot 50 percent in the second half (15 for 30), compared to only 29 percent in the first. The Vikings also used suffocating defense in the second to chip away at Northern State's lead, resulting in the Wolves shooting under 21 percent in the second half.
Augustana was led by Riley Nordgaard, who finished a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds. Sydney Rome came off the bench and provided some much needed scoring finishing with 15 points, 13 of them in the second half.
Recently named All-NSIC first-team member Shaunteva Ashley chipped in 12 points, snapping a 15-game streak of scoring at least 16 points.
NSIC Defensive Player of the Year Emily Schulte ended with eight points and a career-high nine assists in her final game as a Viking. Schulte also recorded five steals on the day.
Rachel Krogman's double-double of 21 points and 13 points powered the Wolves inside attack. Krogman's blend of size and post move proved to be too much for Augustana's post players down on the block as the junior got the majority of her points in the paint.
Sadie Stotesbery poured in 17 points for Northern State, playing a much bigger factor on offense this time around than in the previous meeting between the teams on Feb. 15.
The Wolves gameplan was to get the ball in the paint and take advantage of their size. The result worked, as Northern State was able to get to the line 30 times, making 27 free throws (90 percent).
Both teams came out trying to establish their style of play early. The Wolves wanting to slow the pace down and pound it inside, while the Vikings wanting to use their speed and get the running game going. A tight game resulted in the score being tied a 10 at the under-15 minute media timeout.
Nordgaard's aggressiveness paid off early for the Vikings, with the sophomore scoring five early points on 2-of-3 shooting (66.7 percent). The Canby, Minn. native attacked the rim early, but only finished the half with eight points after the fast start.
Krogman was the key for Northern State in the opening minutes of the game, scoring eight of the Wolves first 12 points. The junior used her size and an impressive array of post moves in the paint to give Augustana trouble down low.
Northern State began to separate itself coming out the media timeout, using a 10-4 spurt to push its lead to six at 20-14 with 9:57 remaining in the half.
The Wolves continued to attack the paint and get good looks in the post for the majority of the half. A Kusler jumper inside the free throw line gave Northern State its first double-digit lead of the game at 11 a little over midway through the first half. For Kusler, it was her ninth point in the half.
The Wolves capped off a big 26-8 run after Devon Brecke connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it a 34-18 Northern State lead.
The Vikings couldn't cut into the 16-point deficit before half, trailing 39-23 at the break.
Augustana's struggles shooting the ball in the first half really put them in a hole. The Vikings shot just 29 percent from the field (9 of 31), including going just 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.
Northern State on the other hand, was able to take advantage of its ability to get field goals in the paint, going 14 of 25 (56 percent) in the half.
Kusler and Krogman led the Wolves in the first half, combining for 23 points on 9-of-11 (81.8 percent) shooting in the first 20 minutes of play.
Augustana showed its grit right out the gate in the second half, using a 10-1 run to get the Northern State lead down to seven at 40-33 in just under three minutes of play.
A controversial call resulted in the Vikings' coaching staff being issued a technical foul. The Wolves made just one of two free throws to cancel out some of Augustana's momentum generated by the quick start.
The Vikings got to within eight points at the 9:28 mark after two baskets by Sydney Rome. The freshman gave Augustana a nice spark in the second half, scoring 13 of her 15 points in the period. Rome used screens and good off-ball movement to get herself getting open and spot up around the perimeter for open shots.
The Vikings' defense gave Northern State fits in the second half, holding them to just 12.5 percent shooting (2 of 16) through the first 12 minutes of the half.
Augustana capped off a 15-4 run on a Nordgaard layup that brought the Vikings to within a basket at 54-52 with 6:27 left. It was the sophomore forward's 14 point in the game.
Augustana tied the game up late with a NBA-range three from Schulte that made it 60-60 with just 40.8 seconds left, giving the Sioux Fall, S.D. native her eighth point on the day.
The Vikings made it 63-62 with 11 seconds left after a beautiful pick-and-roll play was executed by Schulte to Rhianna Gullickson for her lone basket of the game. It was Schulte's ninth assist, giving her a new career high.
Augustana was forced to foul, and Kara Hofschild made both for her only two points of the game, giving the Wolves a three-point lead with 10 seconds remaining.
The Vikings got one last shot at tying the game up. Schulte brought the ball up and swung it to a wide-open Rome on the right wing. Rome's shot rimmed in and out and Northern State secured the rebound and made two free throws with one second left, putting the game out of reach.
The Wolves would go on to win 67-62, advancing to the NSIC Tournament's semifinals on Monday at 12 p.m.