NSIC tournament: Augustana women defeat Northern State to reach semifinals
Vikings will face 9th-ranked Minnesota Duluth on Monday
Throughout her career, Augustana forward Aislinn Duffy has been nothing short of one of the best frontcourt players in Division II.
On Sunday in the NSIC tournament quarterfinals, the 6-foot senior from Rapid City delivered a vintage performance to lead the Vikings to a 78-67 win over Northern State at the Sanford Pentagon.
Duffy poured in 27 points and tied an NSIC tournament record with 18 rebounds as the Vikings used a strong second half to outlast the Wolves in front of 1,556 fans to reach the semifinals.
The Vikings (25-4) will face Minnesota Duluth (25-3), this year's overall regular season conference champion, on Monday at 11 a.m. for a berth in the title game.
The Vikings started strong, taking a 10-point lead late in the first quarter, but a 4-for-20 shooting effort in the second allowed the Wolves to get back in it, with Augie leading just 31-30 going into halftime.
Coming back out for the second, the Vikings were determined to be more physical and active in case the shooting slump continued. It did not, and Duffy's efforts on the boards coupled with better shooting allowed Augie to take over.
"I don't know what the stats were but it felt like in the second quarter we really got out-rebounded," Duffy said. "So the biggest thing was putting bodies on people. They're an aggressive team with tall girls and we're not used to that. We talked about boxing out and keeping up our defense, and then the third thing was just energy."
The Vikings led by six after three and started pulling away early in the fourth when Michaela Jewett hit a turn-around jumper and then a 3-pointer to make it 61-47.
Jewett had 10 points, as did Jennifer Aadland, while Lauren Sees had 15. But Duffy was the difference maker.
She was 8-of-16 from the floor, hit a pair of 3-pointers and went a perfect 9-for-9 from the line as the Vikings outscored the Wolves 21-9 on free throws. It was exactly the kind of performance that made Duffy this year's South Division player of the year, and that has characterized her career. She's been a double-double machine and one of the country's best frontcourt passers, routinely ranking among the NSIC assists leaders as well. She had four assists on Sunday, but coach Dave Krauth said her work on the boards was the big difference maker.
"She was just a monster on the boards, and then everybody pitched in," Krauth said. "That was just critical. With (the Wolves) size they tend to go get it. Overall it's just a big win for us and I'm real proud of our team."
Kailee Oliverson and Rianna Fillipi had 17 points each to lead the Wolves, who finish the year 18-12.
Now the Vikings get another shot at the Bulldogs. Or maybe it's the Bulldogs that get another shot at Augie. UMD, ranked 9th in Division II, went 21-1 in conference play this year, and the one loss came to the Vikings, in Duluth. The Bulldogs are going for their fourth consecutive NSIC tournament title.
"It's one and done, survive and advance," Duffy said. "This is what we work for. Win or lose, it's fun to play good teams, especially at tournament time. This is where you want to do it - on the big stage at the Pentagon. I'm excited we get another shot at them."