Zachary Worden, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY – A big weekend series tipped-off Friday at Mount Royal University's Kenyon Court as the tenth place Cougars welcomed the ninth place University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The series has huge implications in the Canada West standings as both teams came into the night with seven wins. The Cougars came into the weekend after splitting a home and away series with the University of Lethbridge, while the Huskies were on their bye week last weekend.
Saskatchewan came away with an 82-71 victory in a game that came down to the final minutes. They outscored the Cougars 31-18 in the fourth quarter helping them secure their eighth win of the season. Lawrence Moore came up big down the stretch and ended up scoring a game-high 20 points. Chan De Ciman, JT Robinson and Emmanuel Akintunde all scored 13 points each while Robinson also added 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Glen Yang filled the stat sheet for Mount Royal, putting up a team-high 17 points, coming down with eight rebounds and dishing out five assists. Patrick Vandervelden also had a big night on both ends of the court coming up with 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks, making his presence felt inside. The Cougars had three other double-digit scorers as Samuel Willis, LJ Hegwood and Matthew Guinto all scored over 10 points.
Mount Royal was able to take a lead through the first quarter. Their defense held the Huskies to 14% shooting in the opening 10 minutes. The two teams saw offense come from various players as 11 players totaled points in the quarter.
After a low scoring first, both teams started to get into an offensive groove in the second. The action throughout the quarter went back and forth as the Cougars looked to hold onto their lead going into halftime. The early offensive burst proved to be short-lived as the defensive grind picked up through the back half of the second quarter.
Despite the Cougars early lead, the Huskies kept battling and eventually took the lead in the final minute of the half. Robinson and Akintunde combined for 13 points in the quarter, leading the charge for the Huskies. Nine Saskatchewan players put points on the board as the team overcame their early deficit and finished the first 20 minutes with a two-point lead. Guinto, Yang and Hegwood combined for 19 of the Cougars' 31 points in the first half as the trio carried the offensive load early.
After being forced into an early timeout, the Cougars went on a 13-4 run that saw them retake the lead. Vandervelden scored seven points on the run stretching the floor, as he hit three jump shots to get his points. The two teams battled down the stretch of the quarter as the Cougars looked to extend the lead but were unable to get any breathing room.
The tight up and down action continued right into the fourth. Mount Royal was able to hold onto their lead until the five-minute mark of the quarter before Robinson hit a three to tie the game up and set the game up for a tight finish down the stretch.
Once the game was tied the lead started to change hands as neither team could a lead bigger than three. After Moore hit a go-ahead three with two minutes to go, Saskatchewan followed that up with another made jump shot from Moore and a steal turned to made three from Robinson to go up by eight heading into the final minute.
The late push from the Huskies was too much for the Cougars to overcome and the first game of the series went to Saskatchewan.
The second game of the series will be played Saturday night at Kenyon Court, where the Cougars will honour their graduating seniors. The game can be streamed live on www.canadawest.tv at 6:00 p.m. MDT.