After struggling through much of the first half with the fiesty Southern Conference team, Coach Cliff Ellis said the play of Calton inspired his team to put the game away when they had the chance.
"The guy that brought the most energy to our team was Donny Calton," Ellis said. "You have to give him a lot of credit because he's been with the program a long time. His legs and energy created a point with our basketball team where it just made things happen. I thought that he brought an attitude to the game that was needed when we had control of the game, but we hadn't pushed it out."
One of the two holdovers, along with Marquis Daniels, from the Chris Porter, Doc Robinson, Mamadou N'Diaye days at Auburn, Calton has seen the ups-and-downs of a program since his time on the Plains. But Friday night made it all worth it for the Fort Worth, Texas native. Getting his career-high in points in just 15 minutes of action, his play inspired his teammates who said they knew he was capable of playing at the level he showed Friday.
"He's like a machine at practice," center Kyle Davis said. "When he goes out there he just continues going and continues going no matter how tired he is. He's going to give you 130 percent or even more. That's one of the things I like about Donny. He's a hard worker and he doesn't complain. That's teaching everybody under him something good because if we play like that all the time in practice and in the games there is no star we can't reach."
In addition to Calton, Daniels had a team-high 15 points, five rebounds and five assists while Marco Killingsworth chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds. Davis was a dominant force in the paint with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. Wofford Coach Mike Young said following the game that they had no answer for the Tigers inside.
"Without question we're just not going to see a front line like that in our league," Young said. "We have a really good mid-major league. We have darn good post players but Killingsworth and Davis, just their sheer size, took our guys out of it. Everything is contested. That's difficult to play against."
Donny Calton hit six of seven field goals for the Tigers.
Leading 39-30 at the break, Auburn kept a comfortable lead in the first minutes of the second half with Daniels hitting successive jumpers to make it 43-33 Tigers. After a three-pointer by Wofford's Justin Stephens cut the lead to seven, the Terriers never got closer than that the rest of the way as Auburn's superior depth and size overwhelmed the visitors. With the lead at 10 with just over 13 minutes left in the game, Derrick Bird drained a three from the right wing following a Terrier turnover and that signaled the beginning of the end for the visitors.
Back-to-back baskets by Killingsworth moments later and a basket by Lewis Monroe pushed the lead to 17 and following another turnover true freshman Troy Gaines drained one of his two baskets from behind the arc to give Auburn a 20-point cushion with 9:11 left in the contest. From that point on it was mop-up time for the Tigers as they pushed the lead out to 26 points on a Davis basket with 7:25 remaining. The Terriers would add several meaningless baskets late, but Auburn still won going away by the score of 81-63.
Auburn was without true freshman guard Steve Leven in Friday night's game. Suspended for missing curfew, he was absent from the Tiger bench. Ellis said following the game that he would be back for Tuesday's game against Georgia State in Auburn.
Marquis Daniels led all scorers with 15 points vs. Wofford.
The first half of basketball was very familiar to those who watched Auburn play last season. Just 6-11 from the free throw line, the Tigers couldn't find the range from outside and were forced to take the game inside.
Calton led the way in the first 20 minutes with eight points, all coming in a three-minute stretch with Auburn leading 22-15. While Calton was hot Auburn's defense couldn't stop the Terriers from the perimeter. Guard Adrien Borders was the main weapon with 14 points, including two three-pointers. In all the Terriers were 5-for-10 from outside the arc in the first half. Davis easily handled Wofford in the first half. Bigger and stronger, he had seven points and eight rebounds to go along with three blocked shots. In all the Tigers outrebounded the smaller Wofford team 22-13 and led 39-30 at the break.
Auburn returns to action Tuesday night with Ellis looking for his 500th career victory against old rival Lefty Driesel, the coach of the Georgia State Panthers. Former foes when Ellis was at Clemson and Driesel coached the Maryland Terrapins, the two know each other well and should be a tough game for the Tigers. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.