SIOUX FALLS, SD – The Augustana men’s basketball team fell 69-61 to Wayne State in the NSIC opener Tuesday evening in the Sanford Pentagon. The loss drops Augustana to 2-3 on the year while Wayne State, the NSIC South Division favorites, moves to 4-1 on the season.
After Entering the intermission trailing 29-21, and falling behind by as many as 10 points at 33-23 in the early portions of the second half, Augustana took its first lead of the game at 36-35 on a Ryan Miller free throw.
The lead was made possible by a 17-2 run including 14-straight points. The 14-straight points were jump-started by a layup from Eric Tiedman when Aoi Aoi found him cutting towards the basket. Akoi found another assist when he dished a pass to a streaker Caden Hinker to pull within five points at 35-30.
Akoi then scored two of his career-high 19 points with 15:52 remaining in the game to pull AU within three points. He completed the old-fashioned 3-point play by sinking the free throw. Isaac Fink knotted the game at 35-all on a jumper forcing a Wayne State timeout.
Miller then sank his go-ahead free throws with 14:30 on the clock and the run ended with a Brady Helgren 3-point basket to give Augustana the 40-35 lead with 13:45 to go in the contest.
The Vikings’ lead stretched to 10 points on a jumper from Akoi making the score 47-37 with 10:56 to go.
Over the next seven minutes, the Wildcats whittled away at Augustana’s lead and pulled within one point on a David Harmon fast-break layup with 4:14 to go. Wayne State then took the lead at 65-54 on a 3-point basket by Harmon.
Augustana responded with a jumper from Akoi to knot things up at 56 and get the Pentagon crowd on its feet with a back-and-forth affair over the next five possessions.
However, after a missed jumper in the paint by AU, Harmon again netted a trey, and that pushed Augustana’s lead to four points with 37 remaining and Augustana was unable to score again in the 69-61 final tally.
The Vikings were led by Akoi’s 19 points while Miller scored right at his average of 14 points. Fink led the rebound battle with 11 while scoring nine points.
The Vikings make their 2022-23 debut inside the Elmen Center on the Augustana campus on Saturday by hosting Valley City State at 3 pm The nonconference action concludes with a game against Hastings on Sunday, also at 3 pm in the Elmen Center.