Tayvian Johnson thought he knew what basketball rivalries were like, playing in the Western Big 6 Conference.
However, the Augustana College freshman who prepped at United Township learned yet another basketball lesson as he played in his first – and probably only – game against cross-river rival St. Ambrose Wednesday night.
Johnson and the rest of the young Vikings took a huge step up the learning ladder. Without leading scorer Kevin Schlitter, who injured his right knee early in the first half, the Vikings rallied in the final five minutes to pull out a thrilling 77-69 victory over the visiting Fighting Bees at Carver Center.
Johnson hit a pair of key buckets in Augie's 14-4 closing run that brought to an end the Q-uad-Cities series for the foreseeable future as Augie won for the 60th time in the 94 meetings. Because of NCAA rules, games against NAIA schools hurt Augie's playoff chances, thus Augustana officials decided to end the rivalry after this season.
"It's just a whole different attitude,'' said Johnson, who finished with his first collegiate double-double of 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. "Me coming from the Big 6, we have a few signature games where we have a lot of people there. This was a lot like that, but at a higher level.''
It took the young Vikings rising to a higher level that allowed the hosts to close out the series the same way it started in 1912 – with an Augie victory. Not surprisingly for a Grey Giovanine-coached Augie team, it boiled down to defense late in the game.
"This is the first game where we've finished the game exactly the way we wanted,'' said Giovanine of his 6-0 club. "The last six minutes, our defense turned it up a notch.''
SAU, thanks to some huge buckets by Orion product Josh Hutton (11 points) in a reserve role, took a 65-63 lead when Bee reserve Adam Koncil hit two free throws with 4:49 left. In the next 4:34, however, SAU – which got 17 points from Davenport North product Darren Galloway and 10 from Moline's Justin Blondell -- committed five turnovers and missed all four shots it got off.
"We really got stuck on 65 and that hurt us,'' said SAU coach Ray Shovlain, whose team trailed 41-31 at halftime. "Our guys played better in the second half, especially when we were down in the first half. Across the board, I thought we got ourselves in position to score and were right where we needed to be.''
SAU was right there until the late troubles, caused by both loose play on SAU's part and Augie tightening the defensive pressure.
"We were more bouncy on defense and getting stops,'' said Johnson of Augie's defense that led to many of SAU's 13 turnovers in the game. "Coach says when we play good defense, good things will happen. We started playing good defense and great things started going for us.''
In that time, Augie epitomized its balanced offensive attack with six players contributing on the offensive end in that final flurry as the Vikings pulled away for the victory.
While Schlitter's injury could end up being a huge loss, the Vikings were sure able to cover for it. All five Augie starters scored in double digits. Joining Johnson were Brandon Kunz with a game-high 19, sophomore Dan Jurgutis and freshman Ben Ryan with 13 each and sophomore Brandon Thompson, a Galesburg prep, with 10. Sophomore Nic Hoepfner, another UT product, grabbed five rebounds in a reserve role.
"I think this a great win for us, given the fact that we lost our best player early in the game,'' said Giovanine.
Or, as Johnson added, "this was a statement win.''
Today is Friday, March 7, the 66th day of 2014. There are 299 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: The ferry boat came up to her dock yesterday and was punching away at the ice, which is crowded up against the Iowa shore. 1889 -- 125 years ago: J.C. Bromley, of Rock Island, has received a patent on a steam activated valve. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Major. C.W. Hawes, head clerk of the Modern Woodmen of America, was honored by department chiefs on his 73rd birthday 1939 -- 75 years ago: Mayor Robert Galbraith declared that 75 percent of the people here have talked to "favor construction of Rock Island's new city hall in Spencer Square." 1964 -- 50 years ago: C.H. Langman & Sons, Rock Island, has been awarded the general contract for partial rehabilitation and modernization of the main building at the East Moline State Hospital. The Langman firm bid $424,839. 1989 -- 25 years ago: The cost of living in the Quad-Cities is 6.8 percent less than the average of 260 metropolitan areas.