Top-ranked Vikings pull away late from Warriors
WLC trailed by just two points at halftime to top team in NCAA Division III
December 2, 2011
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – For nearly 30 minutes, the Wisconsin Lutheran College men’s basketball team battled neck-and-neck with the top-ranked team in NCAA Division III. Unfortunately, #1 Augustana (Ill.) controlled the final 10 minutes of the game as the Warriors upset bid over the Vikings fell short Friday at WU Field House, 74-46.
In the opening half, the Warriors and Vikings (5-0) went back-and-forth as Wisconsin Lutheran led by as many as seven points and never trailed by more than four in the opening 20 minutes of play.
After playing the first 6:40 to an even score of 12-12, the Warriors went on a 9-2 run to take the first half’s largest lead at 21-14 when Russell Strutz (Sturtevant, Wis./Shoreland Lutheran) buried a three-point basket. The Vikings responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 22-21 lead. Augustana built its lead to 28-24 soon after, but the forest green and white trimmed their deficit back to 31-29 at the break.
Alex Merbach (Kaukauna, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran) poured in 12 first-half points for the Warriors to lead all players in the opening half. The senior forward connected on five of his 10 shot attempts, including knocking down one from behind the arc.
Wisconsin Lutheran was narrowly out-shot before the break as it knocked down 46.2 percent (12-for-26) of its shots, compared to the Vikings’ 47.6 percent (10-for-21) shooting. WLC did force 11 Vikings turnovers compared to just eight Warriors turnovers in the opening half of action.
The game remained tight in the opening portion of the first half as the Warriors trailed by just five points with 10:46 remaining on the clock, 43-38. Augustana then went on a 20-4 run to take a 63-42 lead with 5:07 remaining in the game. That run proved to be too much for Wisconsin Lutheran as the Vikings pulled out the 28-point victory.
The Warriors struggled shooting in the second half as they shot just 3-for-22 after the break and finished the game shooting 31.3 percent (15-for-48). The Vikings, meanwhile, connected on 46.3 percent (25-for-54) of their shots during the contest.
Rebounding also proved to be key as Augustana used its size advantage to pull down 15 offensive rebounds compared to the Warriors' six offensive boards. AC also out-scored WLC 19-5 in second-chance points.
Merbach finished with a game-high 16 points, while also grabbing a team-best five rebounds for WLC. Chris Anderson was the lone Viking to finish in double figures as he led a balanced scoring effort for the visitors with 10 points.
Wisconsin Lutheran (1-6) concludes play at the Lopata Classic tomorrow when it faces the loser of tournament host Washington University and Whittier College. The game between WLC and either the Bears or Poets is set to begin at 4 p.m. at the WU Field House.