Wheaton defeats No. 3 Augustana 93-79 in NCAA Sectional action

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Rock Island, Ill. - The Wheaton men's basketball team defeated Augustana 93-79 on Friday night in the Sectional Semifinal round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament. Wheaton scored 63 points in the second half, out-scoring the Vikings 63-43 in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Wheaton improves to 22-8 on the season and Augustana concludes its 2018-19 campaign with a 26-4 record.  Wheaton advances to Saturday night's Sectional Final against Marietta College (23-6) at 7:00 p.m. Marietta defeated Oswego State 78-61 in the opening game on Friday night at the Carver PE Center.

Aston Francis led the Thunder with 33 points and seven rebounds. Anajuwon Spencer scored 18 points with four rebound and Luke Anthony added 15 points with six rebounds. Nyameye Adom tallied nine point and Gavin Hawkins added nine points, making a trio of three-pointers, with four rebounds.

Head coach Mike Schauer noted of the game, "I thought we had decent shots in the first half. But in the second half we settled down and made shots." Francis added, "I thought I good looks in the first and that as a whole we got good looks. Fortunately in the second half the shots went down and we got a rhythm going."

Wheaton shot 37% (10-of-27) from the field in the first half and improved to a sensational 62.5% (20-for-32) field goal percentage in the second half. Wheaton had a 28.6% (4-of-14) effort from three-point range in the first half and 47.8% (11-of-23) in the second half. Wheaton posted a 90% (18-of-20) free throw percentage in the game tonight. Augustana posted a 42.4% (28-of-66) field goal percentage in the game, including 26.9% (7-of-26) behind the three-point arc. The Vikings tallied a 66.7% (16-of-24) effort at the free throw line tonight. Wheaton out-rebounded the Vikings 39-34, with an 11-7 edge on the offensive glass for Augustana.

The Vikings led 17-9 with 12:05 remaining in the first half. A Francis basket started an 11-5 Thunder run as Wheaton trimmed the hosts' lead to 22-21 with 5:38 left in the opening half. The Augustana maintained a lead for the rest of the half as the Vikings led 36-30 at the halftime intermission.

Augustana's Nolan Ebel made a three to open the second half as the Vikings led 39-30 with 18:44 left in the second half. Augustana led 44-37 with 16:17 remaining in the game when Gavin Hawkins made a three-pointer for the Thunder to spark a 15-5 Thunder run, giving Wheaton a 52-49 lead with 11:43 remaining in the game. The matchup was tightly contested over the next seven minutes, however, Augustana never regained a lead in that span.

Wheaton led 73-71 when Francis made a three-pointer with 3:59 remaining in the game to increase Wheaton's lead to 76-71. Chrishawn Orange made a basket on the Vikings' next trip down the court to trim Wheaton's lead to 76-73 with 3:33 left in regulation. Hawkins (PICTURED RIGHT) drained an open three-pointer on Wheaton's next possession to extend the Thunder lead to 79-73 with 3:03 left in the game.  Francis was fouled with 1:42 left in regulation and he made a pair of free throws, increasing Wheaton's lead to 84-73 with 1:42 left in the game. 
Augustana made four free throws with 1:40 left in regulation to trim Wheaton's lead to 84-77. Wheaton beat Augustana's trap on the next Thunder possession as Anthony broke free to the basket for a layup to extend the guests' lead to 86-77 with 1:25 remaining in the game. Augustana committed a foul on its next possession as Anthony made a pair of free throws to increase the Thunder lead to 88-77 with 1:17 remaining in the game. Wheaton closed out the game to earning its first trip to the Sectional Final since 2007-08.

Ebel led the Vikings with 23 points and three assists, while Orange scored 20 points with three assists. Brett Benning tallied 11 points with six rebounds and six assists for the hosts.