Division III powers: Elmhurst upsets No. 1 Augustana in OT

 
By Adam Rossow
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 1/7/2016 3:00 PM

Seats were at a premium for Wednesday night's Division III showdown between Augustana College and Elmhurst College, but by the end of the breathtaking game, there was not a single spectator using one.

In a game more worthy of mid-March tourney setting than the sixth of January, No. 5 Elmhurst outlasted No. 1 Augustana, 77-75, in overtime in Elmhurst. Senior Kyle Wuest scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Bluejays and hand the Vikings their first loss of the season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With the Bluejays clinging to a two-point advantage in overtime, Elmhurst senior Will Nixon rejected Brandon Motzel's game-tying layup attempt with less than 3 seconds remaining to preserve the victory. Elmhurst students rushed the court as the overtime horn sounded, the second time in a matter of minutes after the Bluejays appeared to win the game on Nixon's tip-in at the end of regulation.

Referees brought the celebration to a halt and used video review to determine the ball was still on Nixon's finger tip as time expired, which sent the game into overtime.

"Our guys were not dejected," said Elmhurst coach John Baines. "In the huddle before overtime, they just said 'now we have to win it here' and that comes with having a mature group."

The five-minute overtime was a defensive battle, but Elmhurst (12-1, 2-0 CCIW) found enough offense to emerge victorious. Nixon and senior Erik Crittenden combined for all eight of the team's points in the extra session as the Bluejays' defense held Augustana (12-1, 1-1) to only two field goals.

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The matchup between these College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin preseason favorites was tight throughout as neither team was able to pull away by more than seven points during a game featuring 13 ties and 19 lead changes.

Augustana's Hunter Hill scored 11 points during a key five-minute stretch to give the Vikings their largest lead of the game, 57-51, midway through the second half. Wuest countered by scoring seven points during a critical 13-4 Elmhurst run, giving the hosts a four-point advantage with less than four minutes to play in regulation.

"Anyone on our team can fill it up on offense, but in games like this I feel like it's my job to take over," said Wuest about his pivotal stretch.

Augustana wouldn't go away, however, as Jawan Straughter hit a pair of crunchtime 3-pointers to give the Vikings a two-point lead before Elmhurst would tie the game at 69 with two free-throws. The Vikings were unable to capitalize on three offensive rebounds in the final 90 seconds, however, and Bryant Ackerman raced the length of the floor and missed a floater before Wuest and Nixon failed to give the Bluejays the win in regulation.

Hill led the Vikings with 22 points in defeat, but was uncharacteristically inaccurate from the field. The senior guard entered the game shooting almost 56 percent from the field, but knocked down only 6 of 19 field goals, including 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

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