ROCK ISLAND — For the second time in as many games this season, the Augustana men's basketball team's defense started in full throttle.
This time, the Vikings had a nice complementary offense — paced by junior Pierson Wofford — to go with it.
As the Vikings held visiting Calvin scoreless for nearly six minutes to open Friday's home debut, the offense matched that latitude for a 16-point lead. Ranked No. 2 nationally, the Vikings showed early signs of that championship form as they never lost that lead en route to a tough 80-69 victory over the Knights.
“I love the way we're starting games,” said Augie coach Grey Giovanine. “That's really encouraging.”
So was having Wofford back on the court and looking like he never missed a beat. Back with the team this season after being removed by the administration in January for an undisclosed discretion, Wofford was stellar in leading the Vikings with game highs of 22 points and nine rebounds — six of those on the offensive end.
“He's playing lights out,” said Giovanine of Wofford. “Six offensive rebounds; he's good when he rebounds. He's really getting after it.”
That effort in the physical battle ended up taking its toll. Wofford left the game with 9:19 left in regulation because of a nasty cramp and didn't return.
But he had already made his mark — even with fellow starters Chrishawn Orange (18), Dylan Sortillo (15) and Nolan Ebel (10) adding double-digit scoring efforts. All but 10 points were scored by Augie's starting five.
“It feels great to be back,” said Wofford. “These are my brothers that I have gone to war with the past two years, and I'm just trying to do anything I can — to not stand out, but to add on.”
In addition to making the physical plays himself. His presence on the court was also distinguishable, Giovanine saying his example brings more effort out of his teammates. When he went out with the cramp, the Vikings led 66-50.
“We expected to see a bunch of big, physical guys,” said Wofford. “I thought we battled well. They had a lot of offensive rebounds (11), so that's something we have to get better at.”
With Wofford getting worked on by trainers and Giovanine trying to integrate some fresh faces into the game, Calvin, getting into its season opener after the rough start, cut the lead to 73-64 with 4:13 left. From there, Augie scored seven of the next 10 points to stretch the margin a bit.
Giovanine downplayed Calvin's rally that forced the starters back into the game late.
“They're an NCAA tournament, team, they're physical and they're good,” said Giovanine of the 0-1 Knights. “I thought it was a good game between two good teams. … Our top seven or eight guys played really well.”