AUS Championship Preview: Another contrast in styles

The old baseball adage of “good pitching and defense usually beats good hitting” may not be perfectly appropriate as a basketball analogy.  However allowing for some license to that end, if one were to apply that maxim in the AUS tournament context, yesterday’s Dalhousie victory over Saint Mary’s was generally supportive of defense/rebounding usually defeating fast-paced, offensive focused play.  Not that the Huskies haven’t been much better defensively down the stretch of the season – but SMU still wants to get up and down quickly.  Still, Tigers kept the game in the high 70’s and were able to scratch out a tough victory.  While all the numbers (SMU shot 59%) don’t completely support the “defense/rebounding-wins” notion, Dal out rebounded the bigger more athletic Huskies 41-33 and created 20 turnovers.  So consider the basketball-applied baseball proverb partially proven.

Expect the adage to be tested again today as another contrast in styles awaits the great fans of the AUS tournament this afternoon.  The explosive UPEI Panthers – who thoroughly dominated Acadia off the opening tip last night – try for their first AUS championship since 2003 while Tigers look for the repeat.  Panthers got a tremendous effort from 6’7″ Dut Dut and another under-rated but important contribution from their instant offense off the bench in 6’1″ Lorenzo Parker, who hit a pair of early 3’s to extend the early dominance.  This afternoon, the Panthers will face the top defensive team in the league that has proven to be able to keep games tight and in the quarter court.

The imbalanced AUS schedule saw these teams meet only twice in the regular season with Dalhousie sweeping a pair of games, winning a couple of weeks ago at home at DalPlex as Tigers, after a slow start, eventually made UPEI pay for sitting in a 1-3-1 on the heels of a 9 for 14 effort from downtown by a pair of freshmen reserves in Alex Petronis and Matt McVeigh, which erased an early Panthers 13 point lead.  Dal made 14 of 29 3’s overall in the game, contrasted with the 4 for 25 effort from beyond the arc in a tight one point win at UPEI in January in a game played in the high 70’s (Dal wins 79-78 on a last second bucket by 6’2″ Kashrell Lawrence).

At least in the two games played between the two thus far, Tigers have done a reasonably strong job on 6’6″ Brad States, who had only 8 points in the recent loss at Dal.  But in many ways as States goes, so do the Panthers.  When he is active on the offensive glass, gets out in transition – numerous times this season he has ripped down a defensive board and taken it coast-to-coast for a dunk or foul – and attracts double teams in the post, Panthers are at their best.

And 6’2″ Tyler Scott remains capable of spectacular streak-shooting performances, with range well beyond the three point line.  It will be interesting to see where Dal coach Rick Plato employs 5’11” Ritchie Kanza Mata, his stout on-the-ball defender and how he deals defensively with States in the post – doubling down off Parker or Scott could be lethal and with Dut’s recently improved offensive performance, it could be pick-your-poison.

Much like yesterday’s prediction for the SMU/Dalhousie game:  our forecast was a game in the 90’s favored the Huskies and 60’s/70’s tilted toward the Tigers, expect the same today with UPEI wanting to score quickly:  a game in the high 80’s and 90’s will be tough for Dal unless they shoot the ball as well as they did (almost 50%) the last time these team’s met.

Expect a wonderful atmosphere and another in the long line of classic finishes to the AUS tournament.


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