CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. — It might not have gone just as coach Grey Giovanine had scripted, but his Augustana men's basketball team posted a 73-64 victory over Heidelberg on Wednesday evening in the season opener.
Along with the victory, the Vikings found plenty to work on in a busy first week of the season that continues with home games Friday and Saturday against Calvin and Alma, respectively, from the tough Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
While the offense was a bit sloppy in the first half, the Vikings still raced out to a 36-18 halftime advantage and never lost the lead in the final 20 minutes of the game played at Wabash College — geographically in the middle of the two schools.
“I’m real excited about the way we came out of the gate and held them to 18 points in the first half,” said Giovanine. “I thought we were really ready to go and tuned in and played with great energy in a neutral site where there is nobody there. I thought we just did a terrific job.”
Augie, ranked among the top five teams in four national polls, including No. 2 in D3hoops.com, had plenty of offensive balance. Chrishawn Orange led the Vikings with game-highs of 21 points and nine rebounds. Junior classmate Pierson Wofford was solid in his return with 14 points and eight rebounds. Dylan Sortillo (14) and Nolan Ebel (12) were also in double-digit scoring for the winners.
Working with that big lead, the Vikings lacked that killer instinct Giovanine would like to eventually see out of his team. Augie took its biggest lead of the game at 19 (43-24) on two Donovan Ferguson free throws at the 16:50 mark of the second half. However, the Student Prince continued to press the Vikings, who finished with 19 turnovers, and chipped that margin to seven (71-64) for the final time on Alex Arellano’s layup with :21.2 left. Off the bench, Arellano led Heidelberg with 17 points.
“After the half, we kind of lost interest,” admitted Giovanine. “Great, mature, championship teams don’t let up and … put teams away. Obviously, we didn’t do that. I thought we were a little careless in the second half and didn’t play with the same kind of focus and energy.”
Augie took advantage of Heidelberg’s aggressive defense that netted 22 fouls. The Vikings parlayed that into 25-of-31 from the foul line and a 17-point advantage from 15-feet.
“Their opponents last year shot 200 more free throws than they did, so we got to the free-throw line and shot 80 percent, which is just outstanding,” said Giovanine, who used 11 players in the contest.