No style points were given — or needed — Saturday for the Augustana Vikings to win their third straight game of the season.
In fact, the manner in which the second-ranked Vikings grinded out their 65-53 victory over visiting Alma in the "Illinois-Michigan Challenge" might be seen as a harbinger of things to come.
"This felt a lot like a conference game right there," said junior guard Chrishawn Orange, referring to the grind of CCIW play. "Our back was against the wall and we just kept swinging, staying together and kept coming."
That was indeed the case.
The Vikings never trailed in the game, but were tied for the final time, at 42, with 10:47 left. Alma actually had a chance to take the lead, but Kevin Scheibert missed the and-one on a potential three-point play.
With Augie nursing a slim 47-46 lead a few minutes later, the Vikings went on an 11-0 run to take control. Five Augie players scored in that three-minute span.
In the heart of that late spree was junior Brett Benning.
With Alma packing a zone defense on the Vikings all night, the hosts were hesitant on the offensive end and needed a spark from somebody through constant offensive struggles. Benning was the man.
He came up big at numerous critical times, but the biggest might have been at the back end of that game-deciding run. After providing help defense from the back side that stopped Alma on a possession, he buried a 3-pointer that gave Augie a 58-46 lead with 5:28 left in the game.
"We just got in synch and played well together," Benning said. "That shows with guys playing well together and sharing the ball that good things happen whoever is out there."
Off the bench, Benning led the Vikings with 15 points as he found gaps in that zone and looked comfortable in the mid-range game when nobody else did.
Augiue's balanced offense included 12 from Nolan Ebel and Orange's 11. Pierson Wofford added eight points to go with a team-high 18 rebounds. Benning also marked in every other category, finishing with six rebounds, two steals, two assists and a block.
Dylan Sortillo also added 10 rebounds to go with six points.
"We officially welcomed Brett Benning back to the team," Augie coach Grey Giovanine said. "That's the way he was playing down the stretch last year."
The victory moved the Vikings to 3-0 as they capped a hectic opening week of three games in four days.
"I told our guys that I was really proud of them," Giovanine said. "That was a hard-fought, tough win. That team is picked second in a very good league, back-to-back nights, and we didn't shoot it very well and went and got 20 offensive rebounds."
With defenses standing stout all game, both teams struggled to find points. Augie finished with 23-of-68 shooting (33.8 percent) and Alma was 19 of 55 (34.5 percent).
"We were grinders tonight," Giovanine said. "It wasn't pretty. But great teams can win when it's not pretty. We're not great yet, but we're getting better."