AUS: Defense lifts Tigers to first-place

In last night’s second of two AUS showcase Varsity Challenge men’s basketball games at the newly-renovated Canadian Tire Center in Halifax (there were 4 games overall:  two men’s and two women’s), Dalhousie Tigers again showed that their group is the most dedicated to the defensive end in the entire AUS, forcing 22 Acadia turnovers and handling the glass in an 87-68 win before what looked like at least 2,000 or more fans on a weather-influenced day in Halifax.

Unlike the first game between X and Saint Mary’s during which very few 3’s were even attempted (6 for 18 between the two teams), both Dal and Acadia started on fire from downtown, undeterred by the arena-influenced shooting backdrop.  The first 5 makes of the game were all from beyond the arc and teams combined for 7 threes made in the first quarter alone.  Reserve shooting guard Sean Dodds had 8 consecutive points off the bench including a pair of 3’s, breaking a 13-13 tie to give Tigers the lead for good.  6’6″ Sven Stammberger continues to grow in confidence as an offensive talent, knocking in the first 2 3’s of the game for Dal and finishing with 16 points and 7 boards.  In total, Dalhousie finished 12 for 24 from downtown for the game in a solid performance.

Once again, 6’3″ Ben Miller was the orchestrator for the Axemen, however, in my opinion, on a national-championship calibre team, Miller’s true value would be as a wing-oriented decision maker playing off more of a true point guard.  With this Acadia group, Miller is required to bring the ball up, start the offense and make key offensive decisions late in the clock.  Dal tested all those talents last night and the results were fruitful as Miller, despite scoring 16 points and doling out 5 assists, was charged with 7 turnovers, including several during a key second quarter run when 5’11” Ritchie Kanza-Mata and friends turned up the ball pressure in the half court.

Kanza-Mata, who led all scorers with 23 points, had 16 in the final period including three 3’s in a minute and a half stretch that ballooned the lead to 20 with under 3 minutes to play.  The diminutive point guard from Scarborough has ramped up his play, especially on the defensive end, and the Tigers are once again poised for a run at the AUS crown, built on their defense, rebounding and solid perimeter shooting.

In Sydney, Cape Breton put a crimp on UPEI’s first-place and Top 10 ranking plans with a convincing 77-63 win at home.  This game was delayed by 24 hours due to inclement weather on the East coast and could have played havoc with the travelling Panthers.  Referees kept a tight lid on this game, whistling 29 fouls combined in the first half alone (15 against Panthers, 14 against CBU) and neither team shot it well from 3 (combined 8 for 38) as 6’5″ Kenny Jean-Louis had 21 points and 8 rebounds while fifth-year 6’6″ forward Meshack Lufile had a 14-point, 12-rebound double/double.  AUS POY candidate 6’2″ Tyler Scott suffered through a miserable 5 for 23 night from the floor including 0-6 from 3 as Cape Breton led by as many as 20.  It could have been worse for the Capers, who won easily despite 27 turnovers and 17 offensive rebounds allowed – however Panthers shot just 25% from the floor.  The teams meet again this afternoon.

Finally, 6’1″ Javon Masters went off for 34 points while underrated, scrappy 5’9″ pg Matt Daley set the table with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists as UNB defeated visiting MUN 108-90 despite 30 points and 10 rebounds from d.  The UNB guards dominated as Seahawks starting pg Davion Parnsalu finished with just 2 points on 0-8 shooting in 28 minutes.  The game was decided midway through the third when Varsity Reds authored a 19-2 run during which Masters scored 12 points including a pair of 3’s and dunk.  The teams meet again today in Fredericton.




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