Rosinta Stromquist finished with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, Michelle Richter made six of her seven shots to score 14 points and Katie LaGrave also had 14 as Augsburg defeated St. Thomas 80-74 in a women’s basketball game at Si Melby Hall on Feb. 1, 2006.
This is notable for a couple of reasons: That ended an Auggies 41-game losing streak to St. Thomas, and they have not defeated the Tommies in 23 games since then.
The teams are now unbeaten co-leaders in the MIAC at 7-0 and have the first of two regular-season games at 1 p.m. Saturday at Augsburg. There was a conversation with Augsburg coach Ted Riverso early on Thursday morning, before the reporter was fully aware of the gruesome details of the Auggies-Tommies rivalry.
Once discovered, a text was sent to Riverso reading: “Tell your ladies they are bucking a trend. Tommies have won 64 of last 65 vs. plucky Auggies.”
Riverso was quick to respond: “We got them right where we want them!”
He did not include a smiley face, but if Ted was of the emoji generation, there would have been several.
Riverso knows all about this Auggies-Tommies competition from the other angle: He was 30 when elevated from assistant to Tom Kosel to head coach of the St. Thomas women’s team for the 1984-85 season.
The Auggies defeated St. Thomas twice in that first winter. But over his next 14 seasons, Riverso’s Tommies went 28-0 vs. Augsburg with an average victory margin of 35 points.
This was a reflection of the excellence of Riverso’s program — 337-80, five MIAC titles, three Final Fours and a national championship — and Augsburg’s second-division status in women’s basketball.
Riverso resigned in 1999 and spent seven years in St. Thomas’ development office. This was followed by eight seasons as an assistant to Pam Borton with the Gophers.
Bill McKee, a basketball man to his core, had taken over at Augsburg for 2011-12. By 2014-15, he had the Auggies upsetting Concordia in the MIAC playoffs, before a loss to St. Thomas in the semis. He also was dealing with an illness that would turn out to be terminal kidney cancer.
Bill knew his fate when he had a few conversations that summer with Riverso, a friend from his St. Thomas days — encouraging Ted to express interest in the job to Augsburg athletic director Jeff Swenson.
“I was saying, ‘I’ve already done D-III, Billy, I don’t think so,’ ” Riverso said. “Of course, the other part of it was that I needed a job.”
McKee died in August 2015. A month later, on Sept. 22, Swenson was able to announce the hiring of Riverso. It was an emotional first season, with Allison McKee as a starting guard. She had transferred from Bemidji State to play a senior season for her dad, and he died before that could happen.
The Auggies were 14-11 overall and 9-9 in the MIAC. Riverso also was occupied lining up a strong group of freshmen that would arrive in the fall of 2016. The half-dozen recruits were Arianna Jones, Tamira McLemore, Kaezha Wubben, Aiza Wilson, Camryn Speese and Abby Jordan.
Jones, McLemore, Wubben and Speese are now in a third season as starters, with Wilson as the first player off the bench. Jordan suffered a torn ACL and is sitting out the season. Camille McCoy, a senior transfer from Langston (Okla.) University, is the fifth starter.
There was an article in this week’s Star Tribune on Augsburg and how it’s dealing with an increasingly diverse student body. As the true urban private school, the Auggies long have had more black athletes than the rest of the MIAC.
Augsburg is now believed to be the first MIAC school to have five black starters in women’s basketball. All are from the Twin Cities area.
“The junior class has been tremendous in lifting up Augsburg in basketball, and we just had our best semester for team GPA since I’ve been here,” Riverso said. “The school is proud of what this group is accomplishing.”
The Auggies had an excellent victory at Bethel on Wednesday to get to 7-0. St. Thomas is another issue.
Ruth Sinn’s Tommies have a 61-game winning streak in the MIAC, 55 in the regular season and 6-0 in three postseason playoffs. The last loss was at Bethel on Jan. 9, 2016.
The Tommies have trailed in the final six minutes only once in the past 47 MIAC games, and that was at home against Augsburg last Feb. 7. The Auggies led by three with 7 seconds left, missed two free throws, the Tommies tied it with a three-pointer and won in overtime.
You had ’em beat, Ted — right?
“Nope,” Riverso said. “It’s St. Thomas. You never have ’em beat until it’s over and you’re shaking hands.”
And he knows that from firsthand experience.