Wheaton narrowly falls to second-ranked Augustana, 77-73

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Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton men's basketball team hosted second-ranked Augustana (16-1, 8-0 CCIW) on Wednesday night inside King Arena. The Vikings hung on to earn a 77-73 victory against the Thunder. Wheaton is now 12-5 overall and 5-3 in CCIW play.

Senior Aston Francis led the Thunder with 30 points, making four three-pointers, with nine rebounds. Luke Anthony scored 11 points off the Thunder bench with four rebounds. Luke Peters tallied nine points, with seven rebounds with three assists. Anajuwon Spencer scored seven points with six rebounds and three assists. Spencer Peterson added six points with five rebounds.

Augustana led early in the contest as the Vikings pulled ahead to a 22-11 lead with 12:30 remaining in the first half. Wheaton responded with nine unanswered points culminating with a three-pointer by Spencer that trimmed the Vikings' lead to one point at 21-20 with 10:28 remaining in the first half. Spencer scored seven of Wheaton's nine points in the 9-0 run.

Augustana held a 35-33 lead with 4:56 left in the first half when Francis made a layup and converted the free throw that followed for a traditional three-point play that gave Wheaton its first lead of the game at 36-35. Wheaton led 41-40 with 29-seconds left in the first half thanks to a rebound and dunk by Kobe Eichelberger. The Thunder led 41-40 at the halftime intermission. Wheaton shot 50% (12-of-24) from the field in the first half, including 44.4% (4-of-9) behind the three-point line.

Augustana opened the second half with an 11-1 run in the opening six minutes as the Vikings led 51-42 with 14:00 left in regulation. Wheaton responded with a 9-1 run that included three-pointers by Anthony and Peterson. The Thunder run trimmed the Vikings' lead to 52-51 with 11:40 remaining in the game.

Augustana slowly built its lead back up as the guests led by nine points at 68-59 with 6:45 left in the game. Francis scored on a layup with 6:01 left in the game and he drained a three-pointer on Wheaton's next possession to trim the Augustana lead to 68-64 with 5:35 left in the game. Both squad traded scoreless possessions for the next three minutes. Nyameye Adom made a pair of free throws with 2:25 left in the game to trim the Augustana lead to 68-66.

A pair of Vikings' free throws and an Augie layup over the next two possessions for the guests increased the Augustana lead to 72-66 with 2:01 remaining in the game. Wheaton continued to fight as Francis drained a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:44 remaining. He was fouled on the shot and made the ensuing free throw to cut the guests' lead to 72-70. Augustana's Pierson Wofford made as pair of free throws on the Vikings' next trip down the court to give the guests a 74-70 advantage. Francis again responded with a three-pointer as he cut the Vikings' lead to 74-73 with 34-seconds remaining in the game. Augie's Chrishawn Orange made one of two free throw attempts for a 75-73 Vikings advantage with 21-seconds left in the game. The Thunder missed a three-point attempt with 11-seconds left in the game and Pierson Wofford grabbed the rebound for the guests. Wofford made a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to account for the 77-73 final score.

Wheaton shot 42.6% (25-of-54) from the field in the game, including 39.1% (9-of-23) from three-point range. The Vikings posted a 36.6% (26-of-71) field goal percentage, including 58.3% (7-of-12) behind three-point arc. Both teams shot an identical 75% at the free throw line on 18-of-24 shooting at the charity stripe. Augustana held a 44-40 advantage in rebounding, including a 14-5 edge on the offensive glass.

Pierson Wofford led the Vikings with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Brett Benning scored 11 points with seven rebounds and three assists. Chrishawn Orange scored nine points with six rebounds and three assists. Nolan Ebel added eight points with six assists and five rebounds.

Wheaton remains at home on Saturday when the Thunder hosts North Park at 7:00 p.m. in King Arena.