Greenville University put a scare into the home crowd of #9 ranked Augustana College (Ill.) but had their hot hand cool off in the second-half, falling 123-111 in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball National Tournament.
Bidding to become the first program from the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to record a first-round win in the national tournament the Panthers jumped out to a fast 24-6 lead to start the game. Barry Nixon jump-started the Panthers offense by scoring the game's first five points. The Panthers led 26-8 just seven minutes into the game thanks to five three-pointers and forcing five Augustana turnovers.
The Vikings brought the score to within 10 points but Johari Dix opened the lead back up for the Panthers with a three and the Vikings would not get any closer in the first-half as Greenville took a 67-54 lead into the break. Greenville knocked down seven of their first nine three-point attempts, finishing the first-half with 11 three's.
However, the hot hand would not continue for Greenville once the teams returned to the court. After putting up 67 points on 50-percent shooting in the first-half the Panthers were held to just 44 points on 34-percent shooting in the second-half while going 4-of-20 from three-point range.
Despite the cold shooting, the Panthers pressure defense kept them alive, forcing Augustana into a season-high 22 turnovers in the game. The host Vikings finally cut the Greenville lead to single digits after a three from Nolan Ebel at the 18:38 mark of the second-half. Augustana had missed their first six three-point attempts of the game but knocked down 8-of-14 for the remainder of the game to get back into the contest.
Augustana cut the score to 79-78 with 14:06 remaining but the Panthers answered back by getting to the free-throw line for three easy points. Dix continued the run with a layup and then Sonti Gray hit a triple to make the score 89-82.
Down by seven with just over 11-minutes left Augustana made their run, a 22-2 run, that gave them their first lead of the game. A key moment that started the run was when junior guard and SLIAC Tournament MVP Johari Dix picked up his fifth foul at the 8:40 mark. After that point, the Vikings scored the next seven points and would not look back.
Greenville would make just two field goals in the next seven minutes as Augustana turned the tide on the Panthers and built up a double-digit lead of their own. Augustana shot 65-percent from the field in the second half, hitting 5-of-11 three-pointers.
Isiah Price and Sonti Gray led Greenville with 18 points while Dix finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and Josias Parker added 16 points. Greenville, making their first national tournament trip in program history, finishes the season with a 19-9 overall record.
- #SLIACtion -