FRISCO, Texas - A few minutes into the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, Augustana (S.D.) trailed by six points to Western Oregon and needed a spark. The Vikings turned to their first-team All-American senior forward Daniel Jansen.
By scoring eight quick points, Jansen got the Vikings on track and it was smooth sailing from there on out on the way to a 74-55 victory over Western Oregon Thursday evening at the Dr. Pepper Arena.
“It was a funny beginning for us, but I thought a little of that had to do with last night’s game,” Augustana coach Tom Billeter said. “It was a very difficult game against a talented team in Tarleton State.
“I didn’t think were sharp at the beginning tonight and then we got it going. I really liked how we started the second half. Our defense all night was pretty stingy.”
The stage is now set for two, first-time participants in the NCAA Division II championship game. Augustana, 33-2, will take on Lincoln Memorial, 34-2, at 3 p.m. ET Saturday. It will mark the second all-time match-up in Division II championship history that the No. 1 and No. 2 team will meet in the national championship. The last time was 1975 when Old Dominion defeated New Orleans 76-74.
“We didn’t come here just to be in the national championship game,” Jansen said. “We want to win it.”
The only true intrigue in Augustana’s semifinal win occurred in the first 5 minutes. Jansen missed the Wednesday’s quarterfinal game with a foot injury. He didn’t start against Western Oregon.
The Wolves started well, opening an 8-2 lead. Jansen entered the game to a loud ovation from the spirited Augustana fans.
Jansen definitely lifted the spirit of the team.
“For sure,” Augustana junior Beyer said. “We weren’t sure he was going to be able to play. He came out with that splash and gave everybody a boost of energy.”
It didn’t take long for Jansen to show why he earned first-team All-American honors. He immediately contributed, scoring a basket and he followed that with a 3-pointer that brought the Vikings to within one.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” Western Oregon coach Jim Shaw said. “When Jansen came on the floor, the whole energy of the game changed. For guys old enough, he did that Willis Reed deal. He wobbled out there and banged in a couple of threes and the whole personality of their team changed. I thought they fed off him. Their energy went up.”
After Western Oregon scored, Jansen hit a 3-pointer that tied the game. The Vikings didn’t slow down. They increased their lead to 18-10 before the Wolves scored again.
Augustana continued to play well the rest of the first half, extending its advantage to 34-16. The Wolves managed to garner just a little momentum heading into the locker room when senior Devon Alexander hit a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, making it 34-19.
MORE: Full box score
But in 13 minutes, Jansen was too much to handle for Western Oregon. He led all scorers in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 13 points on four of six shooting. Jansen only played four minutes in the second half, because the Vikings held a big lead and didn’t need him.
“Not playing yesterday was very, very tough,” Jansen said. “Being on the court and telling the coach I couldn’t go was heartbreaking. I was crying, but I had to get my composure back and do something for the team even if it was not playing.
“I can’t say enough about our training staff. They are amazing. They did a lot of stuff the past few days. They tried something new today. The second they did it, I felt better. I was feeling good before warm-ups. I felt good during warm-ups. I gave the coaches the green light. It wasn’t about me. It was about our team and our staff.”
At the start of the second half, Augustana made sure Western Oregon wasn’t going to build off its halftime buzzer beater. Beyer drove inside the 3-point arc and hit a 10-foot jumper to make it 36-19.
“I just have to let the game come to me,” said Beyer, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. “If I score a bunch of points, that’s fine. If I don’t, that’s fine, too. I do what I got to do, but my role on team is to defend.”
Western Oregon closed to 36-24, and then Augustana put the game away. It started with a 2-point field goal from senior Casey Schilling followed by a 3-pointer from Schilling.
Senior Alex Richter continued the Augustana run with a corner 3-pointer and Schilling finished the 10-0 run with two free throws, giving the Vikings a commanding 46-24 lead with just under 15 minutes left.
“You have to give them credit,” said Alexander, who finished with 12 points. “They are a good team. They don’t make mistakes down the stretch. We fought our way back as best we could, but when you don’t put the ball in the basket, it makes it difficult.”