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March 30, 2010

2009-10 MEN'S BASKETBALL REVIEW

Much of the buzz surrounding the Augustana basketball program heading into the 2009-10 season centered around the team’s early December trip to Spokane, Washington to face nationally-ranked Division I Gonzaga. Much like the last time the Vikings faced a Division I opponent during the regular season (a season-opening loss in 2004-05 to a Southern Illinois team that would finish 27-8), they would do it with a green unit trying to overcome the loss of six seniors from the previous season.

While injuries and lack of experience left the team’s rotation in a near constant state of flux throughout the season, coach Grey Giovanine was able to guide the Vikings to a 16-10 overall record and a 9-5 finish in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin. It marked the 10th consecutive season that Augustana has won at least 16 contests overall and nine in the league. In addition, the team’s fourth-place finish in the CCIW ensured it a spot in the conference tournament for the fifth consecutive season, making it the only school in the league to have qualified for the event every year since its inception in 2006.

Heading into the season just about the only sure thing regarding the lineup was that it would include Matt Pelton (Bloomington, Ill. Central Catholic HS, Houston, Texas). The 6-3 guard entered his senior year having never missed a game since setting foot on campus in 2006. The two-time team captain also had a string of 55 consecutive starts which would continue through the end of the season, finally reaching 81. Pelton ended up playing more games in a Viking uniform—109—than anyone but Bruce Hamming (111 from 1971-75) and Mark Brooks (110 from 1969-73).

Two Vikings that were expected to join Pelton in the lineup were junior forwards Kyle Nelson (Deerfield HS, Deerfield, Ill.) and Bryant Voiles (Byron HS, Byron, Ill.).Both had been extremely productive off the bench as sophomores and had Giovanine and his staff envisioning the possibility of a massive front line consisting of the 6-9 duo and either 6-10 senior Terrence Green (King HS, Chicago, Ill.) or any of a fine crop of freshmen big men.

The perimeter skills of the 6-9 Voiles made that imposing front line a possibility, but unfortunately a balky foot would not. He lasted only three games before the coaching staff made the prudent decision to shut him down and have the injury tended to surgically. Voiles averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 in 23.3 minutes a game, hitting .733 from the field and .571 from three-point range in his truncated season. It marked the third time in four years that an early-season injury cost the Vikings a double-digit scorer for the remainder of the year (Oliver Rorer in 2006-07 and Jordan Delp in 2007-08).

A pre-season foot injury to Green further clouded the front line situation and as a result, the Viking faithful got an earlier than expected introduction to that class of freshmen big men. When the team took the floor for its season opener against Simpson, the Vikings lineup consisted of Pelton, Nelson, Voiles and sophomore Brian DeSimone (Buffalo Grove HS, Wheeling, Ill.) who logged substantial minutes as Pelton’s backup in 2008-09 and became the starting point guard this year when Pelton was moved off the ball. The fifth Augustana starter was 6-7 forward George Dexter (Bettendorf HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) who became the first freshman in nine years to start a season opener for Giovanine.

Augustana won the opener over Simpson by a score of 58-53 at Carver Center and followed with two more home victories, handling Beloit, 66-53, and MacMurray, 85-65. Sophomores Chris Anderson (West Carroll HS, Mt. Carroll, Ill.) and Troy Rorer (Bettendorf HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) along with freshman Luke Scarlata (Morton HS, Berwyn, Ill.) cracked the starting lineup in the MacMurray game as Giovanine shuffled things around.

Augustana’s first road test of the year would be a tough one against the Ravens of Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana. The Vikings had to deal not only with the loss of Voiles and a five-hour bus ride, but an opponent that would go on to post a 22-3 regular season record, win the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament. Pelton and Rorer delivered career-highs of 26 and 14 points, respectively, and Augustana outscored the Ravens 14-7 over the last six minutes to claim a 79-72 win in one of its most complete performances of the season. The Vikings also pocketed a 73-56 win at Knox to improve to 5-0 as they headed west to face Gonzaga.

The Vikings, ranked 15th in the nation by D3Hoops.com, would be facing a Bulldog squad that was the nation’s 21st-ranked Division I team and whose 2008-09 season had ended with a third-round NCAA tournament loss to eventual national champion North Carolina. Gonzaga also entered the contest having won 66 of 70 games it in its home arena, the McCarthey Center, also known as “The Kennel.”

The scrappy Vikings hung with the Zags for a while and trailed by just nine points with less than six minutes to play in the first half. Unfortunately, Gonzaga closed the half with a 20-3 run and cruised to a 79-40 win. Augustana challenged the Bulldogs on the glass all night and an ended up losing the rebound battle by a slim 45-41 margin. The 6-2 Rorer grabbed nine boards, more than any other player on the floor. However, any chance to keep the score closer was hampered by a 1-for-21 Viking performance from three-point range.

Two days after returning home from Spokane, the Vikings were back on the road, this time headed for St. Louis and a date with top-ranked and two-time defending Division III national champion Washington University. Despite 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists from Nelson, Augustana dropped a 71-53 decision as Bear All-American Aaron Thompson missed just one shot in a 26-point performance.

The team rebounded with home victories over Chicago, 59-47, and Monmouth, 87-68, to improve to 7-2. The Monmouth win was highlighted by six first-half three-pointers from Anderson. Then it was back on the road for a pair of games to finish the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule.

First, third-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater outscored the Vikings 22-10 over the final eight minutes to claim a 77-66 win. Nelson, who was beginning to emerge as a dominant low-post presence, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds and his emergence continued with a 27-point performance at Buena Vista. Freshman forward Kameron Norton (Downers Grove North HS, Downers Grove, Ill.) added a season-high nine points and seven rebounds, but in an otherwise flat performance, the Vikings fell to the Beavers by a 76-66 score.

Entering the CCIW schedule with a 7-4 record, Augustana won its first two league games over North Park (77-63) at home and Elmhurst (64-50) on the road. A 17-0 start and a career-high 14 points from DeSimone keyed the victory over North Park.

The team continued its two-win/two-loss pattern, faltering late in a 69-63 loss at Wheaton and trailing the entire way in a 69-64 home loss to Carthage. They rebounded with wins at Millikin, 63-49, and North Central, 81-71. The Vikings had their best shooting performance in over five years in the win over the Cardinals, connecting on .633 from the field.

Augustana was 11-7 overall and 4-2 in the conference heading into a road date with Illinois Wesleyan. The Vikings had won seven straight over the Titans including four in a row at IWU’s Shirk Center. Playing with a front line rotation already shortened by injuries to Dexter and Scarlata, foul trouble for Nelson further complicated things as the Vikings trailed almost the entire game and fell, 71-64. IWU went a remarkable eight for nine from three-point range in the first half.

Nelson converted all 12 of his field goal attempts in a career-high 28-point performance against Elmhurst and the Vikings followed that 62-49 home win with a 68-63 victory at North Park. Nelson snared a career-high 16 rebounds and 6-7 freshman Brandon Kunz (Lake Zurich HS, Lake Zurich, Ill.) added season highs of 12 points and seven rebounds.

Taking a 13-7 overall record and 6-3 CCIW mark to Kenosha, Wisconsin for a showdown with league-leading (and eventual conference champion) Carthage, the Vikings put together 23 minutes of brilliant basketball to hand the Red Men a 70-59 loss. Augustana, who trailed the entire game in a home loss to Carthage three weeks earlier, trailed by 16 points with three minutes left in the first half. However, from that point forward the Vikings allowed the Red Men to convert just four of 30 field goal attempts and outscored them 48-21. Nelson had another huge game with 24 points and 13 boards.

Having negotiated the start of the CCIW schedule which had them on the road for seven of the first 10 games, the Vikings were optimistic about having the final four league games at Carver Center. Unfortunately, the first game of that final home stand resulted in probably the team’s toughest loss of the year. Leading by nine with four and a half minutes left, the Vikings allowed three Wheaton three-pointers down the stretch as the Thunder came back for a 56-53 win.

Pelton scored 16 points on “Senior Night” as the Vikings improved to 15-8 overall and 8-4 in the CCIW with a 55-46 win over Millikin. Augustana just missed out on a chance at redemption against Illinois Wesleyan, dropping a 62-59 decision due in large part to a four-of-nine performance from the free throw line. The Vikings closed the regular season with a 72-55 win over North Central as Nelson posted another double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Kunz added 10 points on a perfect five-of-five performance from the floor.

Having finished the regular season 16-9 overall and 9-5 in the CCIW, it was back on the road to Kenosha for the conference tournament. As the fourth seed, Augustana was matched up in the second semifinal against the host Carthage Red Men. For 25 minutes of play it looked like the Vikings would continue their Tarble Center magic. A pair of Pelton free throws gave them a 39-30 lead with 15 minutes left, but Carthage All-America Steve Djurickovic took over down the stretch, scoring the Red Men’s last 11 points to spark a 55-52 come-from-behind win. Pelton was outstanding, with 21 points in his final collegiate game.

The lone senior on the Viking roster, Pelton finished a tremendous career at Augustana in 2009-10. He was second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game and led the team in steals with 42, three-point field goals with 45 and free throw percentage at .839. He was also second on the team with 61 assists. He was a second team All-CCIW selection for the second straight year (in addition to earning third team honors as a sophomore). He also won academic all-conference honors for the fourth consecutive year and was named a third team Academic All-American by ESPN The Magazine.

He ranked high on several of the school’s career statistical lists as well. In addition to appearing in 109 games, his 138 career steals tie him for fourth all-time at Augustana and he finished tied for seventh in three-point field goals with 116. He also dished out 250 assists to tie for 11th all-time at Augustana and connected on .804 from the free throw line—the 15th best career mark in school history—and .385 from behind the three-point arc—16th on the school’s career list. He helped the Vikings to a 79-30 (.725) record during his four years and Augustana went 40-16 (.714) in CCIW play during that time, winning a pair of conference championships and two CCIW tournament titles.

Nelson, who was a first team All-CCIW selection, led the Vikings in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. His .602 field goal percentage also led the team and ranked as the seventh-best single season mark in school history. Nelson will enter his senior season third on Augustana’s career field goal percentage list with a .586 mark. In conference play, he ranked second in the league in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and field goal percentage (.655) and seventh in scoring (15.6 ppg).

Other statistical leaders for the Vikings included DeSimone, who led in assists with 85. He was also second on the team in steals with 30 and free throw percentage at .803.Anderson led the team in three-point percentage with a.433 mark while Norton led the Vikings with 19blocked shots and ranked second in rebounding at 4.6 per game.

Statistically, the Vikings finished the year with an overall average of 65.4 points per game while allowing an average of 61.7. They shot .462 from the field and held opponents to a .431 mark. From three-point range, Augustana connected at a .317 rate while its opponents hit at a .321 clip. The Vikings shot .635 from the free throw line on the year and outrebounded their opponents by an average of 35.7 to 28.8 per game.

In league play the Vikings finished at or near the top in several CCIW statistical categories. They led the league in scoring defense (59.4 ppg), field goal defense (.423), three-point field goal defense (.320), rebounds (34.1 per game), fewest opponents’ rebounds (27.9 per game) and rebound margin (+6.2 per game). They also finished second in scoring margin (+6.0 per game) and third in field goal percentage (.493).

2009-10 CCIW STANDINGS

SCHOOL

CCIW

W-L

PCT

Overall

W -L

PCT

 

Carthage

 

12-2

.857

 

24-6

.800

 

Wheaton

 

10-4

.714

 

19-9

.679

 

Illinois Wesleyan

 

10-4

.714

 

23-8

.742

 

AUGUSTANA

 

9-5

.643

 

16-10

.615

 

North Park

 

7-7

.500

 

13-12

.520

 

North Central

 

5-9

.357

 

12-13

.480

 

Millikin

 

2-12

.143

 

7-18

.280

 

Elmhurst

 

1-13

.071

 

6-19

.240

 

 

CCIW Tournament

Tarble Arena—Carthage College—Kenosha, Wisconsin

Semifinals – Friday, February 26, 2010

(3) Illinois Wesleyan 68, (2) Wheaton 59

(1) Carthage 55, (4) Augustana 52

Championship – Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carthage 70, Illinois Wesleyan 67

2009-10 AUGUSTANA SUPERLATIVES

CCIW TOURNAMENT PARTICIPANTS: Fifth consecutive year—only school to qualify for every CCIW tournament

ALL-TIME D3HOOPS NATIONAL RANKING: There have been 154 top 25 polls by D3hoops.com since the start of the 2000-01 season…During that time Augustana has been ranked in the top 25 a total of 71 times…The Vikings have either been in the top 25 or in the “others receiving votes” category in 111 out of those 154 polls...This year’s team spent five weeks ranked in the top 25 with a high water mark of 15th in week two.

CCIW ALL-CONFERENCE: Kyle Nelson (First Team)…Matt Pelton (Second Team).

ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American: Matt Pelton (Third Team).

CCIW TEAM STATISTICAL LEADERS: Augustana led the CCIW in scoring defense (59.4 ppg)...field goal defense (.423)... three-point field goal defense (.320)...rebounds (34.1 rpg)...defensive rebounds (23.43 per game)...fewest opponents’ rebounds (27.9 per game) and rebound margin (+6.2 per game).

2009-10 MEN’S BASKETBALL AWARDS

Most Valuable Player: Matt Pelton

Best Defender: Matt Pelton

Leading Rebounder: Kyle Nelson

2009-10 Captain: Matt Pelton

2010-11 Captains-Elect: Kyle Nelson, Bryant Voiles

Junior Varsity MVP: Eric Safranski