Augustana snaps win streak, falling to MSU-Mankato in men's hoops

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Trailing by seven points at halftime, the Augustana men's basketball team used a 50-point second half to spark a comeback, but ultimately came up short in a 79-73 loss to Minnesota State. Augustana moves to 13-7 (9-5 NSIC South) and Minnesota State is now 14-6 (10-4 NSIC South).

The Vikings were led by a phenomenal performance from freshman Michael Schaefer, who registered his third career double-double with a career-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. A.J. Plitzuweit (12 points, 4 assists) and Matt Cartwright (12 points, 6 rebounds) also hit double-figures for the Vikings.

Augustana head coach Tom Billeter knows his program can learn from tonight and improve down the stretch. "Credit MSU for playing well, but I thought we beat ourselves tonight," Billeter said. "I thought we did a good job of getting the ball inside the paint and feeding our bigs."

Sunday's game came down to the final minute of the second half. With Augustana trailing 76-70 with 30 seconds left, Matt Cartwright drilled a three from the left corner, making it 76-73. However, the Mavericks free throw shooting was just solid enough for Minnesota State to hold for the win. At 9-5 in the NSIC, Augustana still remains tied for second in the south division.

Augustana pulled down 40 rebounds (+1 margin) and shot 43 percent (28-of-65) from the field. Minnesota State, who got 24 points from Cameron Kirksey, shot 46 percent (27-58) overall.

Schaefer set the tone from the jump, drawing a pair of charges on the Mavericks. Thanks to the strong defense, Minnesota State started just 1-of-6 on the offensive end.

The Vikings held MSU scoreless for nearly four straight minutes in the first half, and a Schaefer floater on the other end it an 8-2 lead at the 13:44 mark. Minnesota State tied it up at 8-8, but a Jameson Bryan bucket gave the Vikings a 10-8 advantage.

Late in the 1st half, Kirksey sparked a 9-2 run for the Mavericks to give MSU a 21-14 lead, but Schaefer scored on three-of-four possessions to keep the Vikings close.

Minnesota State continued to push the pace, and although Augustana answered with a triple from Bryan, the Mavericks led 30-23 at halftime.

Augustana controlled the glass in the first 20 minutes, out-rebounding MSU 20-19. Augustana shot 33 percent (10-of-30), compared to 44 (12-of-27) for Minnesota State. Schaefer led the Vikings with a team-high 10 points at the break.

The Vikings came out strong in the second half, starting the final frame on an 11-3 run. Defensive stops led to transition baskets, including a big-time put-back dunk from Trevor Hanson.

Schaefer picked up four more quick points and five minutes in, the Vikings had cut the lead to 36-35. Cartwright and LeBrun both scored inside, but the Mavericks responded with four buckets in five trips, pushing the lead back to 42-52.

However, Schaefer started to single-handedly put the squad on his back. He got to the line for a pair of free throws, and following a straight-away three, the freshman had set a new career-high with 25 points.

The Vikings still trailed 62-56 with 5:25 to play, but Plitzuweit kept the Vikings close with a bucket and free throws on back-to-back possession. The freshman scored 9 of his 12 points in the final 20 minutes.

With 50.3 seconds left, Jameson Bryan cut the lead to 73-68 with a drive inside. Cartwright scored a lay-up inside, and then came back with a deep three to cut the game to 76-73 with 30 seconds left, but the Vikings couldn't find the equalizer in the games final minute.

Augustana now heads back on the road to take on Minot State Friday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and U-Mary at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.