|Chrishawn Orange's excellent weekend started with 20 points against defending national champion St. Thomas.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com
By Erik Buchinger
Augustana's first two games in the 2017 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament turned into quite a weekend for Vikings’ sophomore Chrishawn Orange. On consecutive nights, Orange knocked down game-winning shots to send Augustana to the round of 16.
“I’ve never had anything like that happen, so it was something special,” Orange said.
In Friday's first round game, Augustana trailed the defending-national champion St. Thomas by eight points with less than 40 seconds remaining before tying the game at 74. With 3.7 seconds left, Orange was able to dribble up the floor and knock down a three-pointer from the top of the key just before the buzzer sounded.
Augustana head coach Grey Giovanine subscribes to a theory that he credits to former college basketball coach and current analyst Fran Fraschilla that players can make a dribble with every second.
“Chrishawn actually took four dribbles and did a great job of getting himself balanced at the top of the key,” Giovanine said. “He was able to balance himself and take a jumper and knocked it down.”
Orange said it was the second buzzer beater of his basketball playing career.
“I had one in seventh grade, and that was it until now,” Orange said.
Trailing by eight with 40 seconds left, Giovanine said the team remained confident.
“We’ve been behind a number of times this year and kept our poise to come back and win several games like that,” Giovanine said. “Chris has been a big part of it and these two games highlight it obviously, but we’ve had a number of guys make big plays late to get back in it. We’ve got a team that doesn’t panic, and we’re going to play to the buzzer and stay in our system.”
Orange said the team did not panic despite the deficit.
“I think everyone had the mentality that we were going to keep coming,” Orange said. “That’s what we’ve been doing all year, and we’ve had close games like that. We’re not nervous in those situations, but we were all saying to keep coming and play till the last buzzer.”
The next night Augustana matched up with pod host UW-Whitewater, and the Vikings nearly did what St. Thomas did the night before. Augustana led by eight with less than two minutes left, but the Warhawks came back to tie the game up at 70.
Orange drove to the right side and was able to create separation for the game-winning jumper from about 13 feet away with less than two seconds remaining for the victory.
Orange said he knew the ball was going in when it left his hands.
“That first one felt pretty good, but it looked a little to the right and slid in there for us to win,” Orange said. “The second one I shot on a line, so I was really confident shooting that one. I was just trying to make a play for my team, and that’s the best shot I thought I could do. I got the ball and attacked the hop with the best shot I could find.”
Giovanine said he was happy with the shots Orange was able to get off in both games.
“I didn’t know it was going in till the ball settled into the net, but I feel like in both cases, he got good shots,” Giovanine said. “It wasn’t anything hopeful about it, like it wasn’t just throwing up a heave or anything. He got to himself into a position to be balanced, and he does a great job of pulling up off the dribble.”
Giovanine did not use a timeout prior to either of the plays, but they were situations that the team had worked on during practice throughout the season.
Orange said that after Friday night’s game, he felt comfortable to be the one taking the last shot.
“I wasn’t out there trying to be the hero, but making eye contact with Coach G and getting on the same page allowed me to make a play,” Orange said. “After Friday night, I needed to have that confidence after that night and tried to make another play.”
Giovanine said Augustana has grown throughout the season to get where it is now.
“I think this team has shown great resilience because we went 3-3 earlier in the year,” Giovanine said. “Then we became very good and went 8-1 getting ready to run away with the league but lost a key player." Pierson Wofford, who averaged 10.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, was dismissed from the team for undiscolosed reasons in late January.
"We had to rejuvenate ourselves a second time, and were able to really regroup and stay focused and come back into the conference tournament finals, and now win the first two rounds of NCAA tournament. The story is resiliency with this group because we’ve had to reformulate and develop chemistry a couple times this year, and they’ve done it.”
After making two game-winning shots in two days, Orange said he thought of his teammates first.
“It’s just a great feeling because it’s all for my teammates and all for the coaching staff and seniors,” Orange said. “It was great to get it done for my teammates.”
Giovanine said he is happy for this experience for Orange, who has always been a team-first player.
“I couldn’t think of a better guy to have these moments because he’s about as humble and grounded a guy as you can imagine. Everybody in our program is just thrilled to be moving forward, but he’s a guy everybody pulls for. I think he’s the first sophomore captain I’ve ever had. That’s how well thought of he is by teammates and coaches. It was remarkable but not as surprising as people might think. He’s talented, but he’s hungry and eager for us to move forward.”