TOPEKA, Kan. -– Augustana’s four seniors combined for 47 points as the Vikings used a 28-8 run to close the first half to beat No. 21 Concordia-St. Paul 78-66 in the first round of the NCAA Central Region Tournament. The 24th-ranked Vikings improve to 25-6 on the season while the Golden Bears complete their season with a 23-7 mark.
The two teams traveled more 800 combined miles to meet at a neutral site and play for the fourth time for a chance to keep their season alive. Concordia-St. Paul led the season series 2-1 after sweeping the Vikings in the regular season, but Augustana dropped the Golden Bears in the NSIC Tournament semifinals en route to their first conference title.
In the first two meetings, the Vikings were held to several season-lows and Alex Feeney struggled to put points of the board, just averaging 5.3 in the three games against CU. That was not the case Friday. Whether it was offensive rebounds and putbacks or stepping out for a timely 3-pointer, Feeney was feeling it.
The seniors finished 20-for-39 from the field and 47 points including five 3-pointers. Feeney led the way with 20 points and Tinklenberg and Nelson poured in 11 and 10, respectively.
Almost more a story of the game than the senior showcase may have been the offensive rebounds leading to second-chance points. The Vikings corralled 18 offensive boards and turned those into 25 second chance points. On the whole, Augustana outrebounded the Golden Bears 40-25.
Andrea Whitney was a major catalyst in the Vikings’ showing on the glass. Whitney, a sophomore center, grabbed 10 boards, four on the offensive side and often kicked them out to open shooters. Tinklenberg and Feeney finished with seven boards apiece, and a combined seven offensive rebounds.
The Vikings owned a largest lead of 22 points with 5:50 left in the game, but Concordia-St. Paul still shot remarkably well against a stout Viking defense. CU finished with 24-53 from the field for 45.3 percent. This is the first time Augustana has allowed a team to shoot more than 40 percent on the season.
Tinklenberg hit a three just 15 seconds into the game giving a good indicator for the Vikings, but Carissa Wolyniec answered with a triple of her own. The Vikings struggled to keep up with the surprising scoring attack from Concordia-St. Paul in the early minutes of the game.
Kionda Nicks averaged 3.3 points in the first three meetings with the Vikings, but Nicks opened the game with four quick ones early to spark the Golden Bears’ early run. Nicks finished with 12 points, one shy of her career mark. Anika Whiting then took over the scoring load with six quick points to continue the early CU dominance.
A pair of offensive rebounds led to five points for Concordia-St. Paul and their lead reached 18-8 with 13:51 left in the first, but the rest of the half was all Augustana. The Vikings used a flurry of offensive rebounds, clutch shooting and defensive pressure to ignite a 28-8 run to end the half.
Feeney exploded offensively hitting an array of shots while Tinklenberg outhustled the Golden Bears by grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing putbacks. The Vikings also turned up the defensive pressure.
The Vikings forced eight turnovers in a stretch lasting a bit more than 10 minutes while going on a 17-0 run for themselves. The Vikings held CU to 0-7 shooting from the field in that 17-0 stretch while Augustana had five different Vikings score.
Whiting hit a pair of free throws to stop the run, but Emily Schulte drilled a 3-pointer with five seconds left on the clock to put a damper over the Golden Bears’ first-half comeback attempt.
The second half was much more evenly played but Augustana converted easy baskets and shot 61.5 percent to ensure their trip to the semifinals would happen. Nelson scored eight of her 10 points in the second stanza and Feeney matched her first half mark with 10 points in the second half as well.
For the first eight minutes of the second half, the Vikings and Golden Bears traded baskets and the Augustana lead fluctuated between seven and 12 points. But the Vikings wanted to make a statement and sparked another scoring binge to finish CU’s tournament hopes.
Augustana senior and reserve leading scorer Cami Koehn buried consecutive threes to cap off five consecutive possessions in which the Vikings hit a field goal. Feeney then hit a layup and Schulte followed with a pair of free throws pushing the Vikings to their largest lead of the game at 22 points with 5:50 remaining.
The Vikings held a double-digit lead in the first meeting between these two teams which resulted in and Augustana loss, but this lead had the insurmountable feel to it. Schulte’s swipe and score with 3:38 left was the last time the Vikings were up 22 points.
Concordia-St. Paul reeled off seven unanswered points but the clock had become more of an enemy than the Vikings were at the time. Free throws littered the final minute and a half of the game, but the Vikings hit enough to arrive at the final score, 78-66.