With the easiest portion of their Canada West schedule completed (6 games against lower-standing teams Brandon, Trinity Western and Alberta), many across the country were skeptical of Regina’s 7-3 CW record entering this weekend’s pair of games in Vancouver against second place UBC. That doubt was re-inforced when the ‘Birds came away with a 20+ point win in the opener on Friday night that was a 12 point game late in the 3rd before UBC clamped down defensively early in the fourth to win going away.
However, the Cougars, who have upon closer review a formidable first six in their rotation, bounced back last night, overcoming an early third-quarter deficit to grab a 12 point lead with 4 minutes to play. Finding it tough to close out the game, Cougars watched as T-Birds reeled off a 12-2 run highlighted by 8 points from 6’7″ Conor Morgan (game-high 29 points) including the go-ahead free throws late after getting fouled beyond the 3 point line. Morgan was a perfect 10 for 10 from the line on the night. But Cougars 6’1″ fourth-year guard Aaron McGowan, one of four Toronto and Montreal area products toiling for Regina, made the go ahead bucket with 30 seconds remaining and fifth-year 6’4″ senior Jonathan Tull, who played in numerous high-pressure games during his career at Pickering H.S. just outside Toronto, cliched the game from the foul line as the Cougars (8-4) solidified their hold on one of the bye spots in the CW playoff structure.
Jonathan Tull, younger brother Brandon and fellow 6’4″ guard Alex Igual (3rd Year/Spain) were instrumental in the win with the elder Tull scoring 12 of his 23 points after halftime, adding 6 steals and 6 rebounds to the clutch free throws. Igual made all 4 of his 3’s after the intermission including back-to-back 3’s to help Cougars forge to the 12 point advantage. 3rd year Brandon Tull had 14 for Regina which has a steady, athletic and talented first six including the Tull Brothers, Igual, McGowan – who came to Regina via Lakeland College and Fraser Valley after playing his high school ball at Toronto’s Pope John Paul II – and 6’5″ Brian Ofori, the Montreal native who played CEGEP at Dawson College before starting his CIS career at UPEI and transferring to Regina. 6’7″ fifth-year forward Will Talman, a Regina native and himself a transfer back home from Mount Royal U. provides strength and post presence up front for a group that has a chance to finish strong given the confidence of a road win at UBC.
Cougars, presently in third place in CW standings, travel to Manitoba next weekend to tangle with 9-5 Bisons who are just behind Regina in the standings. The final 3 weekends have Victoria (7-7) at home, at first place Calgary 12-3 and then home to Saskatchewan in the Rivalry weekend. Huskies are presently at 4-8 and out of a playoff spot.
While depth could be an issue with the Cougars, their first six at least should allow Regina to compete for what is likely to be a playoff spot at a minimum.