Rock Island, Ill. – The fourth-ranked Augustana men's basketball team (21-2, 13-1 CCIW) defeated Wheaton 93-83 on Wednesday night. Wheaton (16-7, 9-5 CCIW) remains on the road for its next conference matchup on Saturday when the Thunder travels to North Central for a key matchup with the Cardinals at 7:00 p.m. in Naperville.
Aston Francis led the Thunder with a game-high 35 points, making seven three-pointers. Francis grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, with four assists and four steals. Sophomore Gavin Hawkins scored a career-high 13 points off the Thunder bench in the first half, making a trio of three-pointers. Senior Luke Peters scored 10 points with three assists. Tyscon Cruikshank scored six points and Spencer Peterson added five points.
Augustana jumped out to an early 10-point lead at 15-5 with 13:27 remaininig in the first half. The Vikings led by 11 points at 21-11 with 11:22 remaining in the opening half when Hawkins made the first of two back-to-back three pointers. Peterson made a three-pointer after Hawkins' two trifectas for nine unanswered points for the Thunder as Wheaton trimmed the Vikings' lead to 22-20 with 10:35 left in the first half. The final 10 minutes of the half were back-and-forth with five lead changes and five ties. Augustana led at the halftime intermission 45-43.
Augustana gradually built up an 11-point lead at 69-58 with 9:27 left in the second half when a Francis layup sparked a 12-3 Thunder run. The Wheaton scoring run cut the Augustana lead to 72-70 with 7:00 left in regulation. Three Wheaton seniors led the way in the run as Francis scored five points, Peters contributed four points and Kobe Eichelberger drained a three-pointer.
Augustana responded a basket by Pierson Wofford on the possession after Francis' three-pointer trimmed the hosts' lead to 72-70. Wofford's bucket started a run of eight-consecutive points for the hosts as Augustana extended its lead to 80-70 with 5:24 left in the game. Wheaton got no closer that a seven-point deficit in the remainder of the game as the Vikings picked up the 93-83 victory.
Wheaton shot 44.1% (26-of-59) from the field, including 43.3% (13-of-30) behind the three-point arc. The Vikings posted a 60.7% (34-of-56) field goal percentage, including 33.3% (6-of-18) from three-point range. Wheaton shot 75% (18-of-24) at the free throw line and Augustana had a 67.9% (19-28) effort at the charity stripe. Augustana out-rebounded the Thunder 35-30, with an 11-9 advantage for the Thunder on the offensive glass.
Wofford led the Vikings with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. Brett Benning scored 18 points and Nolan Ebel scored 16 points with six rebounds. Chrishawn Orange tallied 14 points with six rebounds and three assists.
Note Worthy: Francis' effort tonight gives him 730 points this season as he becomes the first player in program history with two 700-point seasons in a career…Francis is four points shy of Kent Raymond's Wheaton single-season record of 734 points in 2007-08…Francis now has 1,317 points in conference games in his three seasons with the Thunder, passing Illinois Wesleyan alumnus Jack Sikma (1,307 points) for fifth place in CCIW history (conference scoring only).