Dalhousie 67, Alberta 65… In what was a classic, signature U Sports men’s basketball game in a big-time, energetic environment, 6’2″ Kash Lawrence powered home a lay-up off a fine feed from fellow AUS 1st team all-star Ritchie Kanza Mata with just 1.4 seconds remaining as Tigers came from behind late to send a crowd of 6,410 in a racious Halifax Scotiabank Centre into delirium.
Tigers flattened out for Kanza Mata as the game clock wound down and the slick guard got himself in the lane and found Lawrence (game-high 28 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) free on a second cut along the left baseline, who made no mistake with one of his patented two foot explosive takes. On the preceding possession, Alberta’s 6’6″ Mamadou Gueye, who shook off first half foul trouble to finish with 16 of his team-high 18 points, was whistled for a very questionable travel call in the lane that negated a probable Golden Bear lay-in, one of several “frankly” incorrect calls made by one of the three game officials in a tournament where refereeing has for the most part been high end.
Entering the critical, game-deciding final possession, Golden Bears had only 1 team foul using their second to stop what would likely have been an easy transition run out and then the third to stop the clock with about 10 seconds remaining. Some may question why Alberta did not take their 4th team foul later when Tigers were setting up for final play but in reality, that was a blip in a wonderfully exciting and entertaining game that shows our product is very capable of being packaged and presented in a professional manner that can create lasting property value.
Alberta dealt with the hostile environment very well early, using a 7-0 run to close the first quarter leading by 5 but Lawrence, who is an underrated defender, scored the first 6 points of the second including a steal and breakaway lay-in to key an 11-0 Dalhousie run helped by their patented tight half-court “d” to build leads as large as six at 28-22 midway through the second quarter. But Gueye, who had 3 fouls in the first 7 minutes of the game – including his third that looked like it should have been called on one of his teammates instead – got going by capping a 12-3 Alberta run with a three-pointer – one of only 3 threes made by the usually explosive Golden Bears – to lead by 7 midway through the third.
At that point, Dalhousie began extending their defense into the front court and Bears generally struggled to get into their offensive flow – Golden Bears turned it over 22 times including a eye-popping 9 times in the fourth quarter alone as the pressure finally paid dividends for Dal. Still, after trailing by 4 with 4:43 left in the game after a lay-in by 6’6″ Sven Stammberger, Golden Bears were equal to it, riding a 7-1 run capped by a clutch Gueye jumper to lead by two entering the final minute. Kanza Mata then tied the game with a slick pull-up jumper from about 8 feet in the lane with 21 seconds remaining, setting up what was a season-ending travel call on the Golden Bears that sullied what was a signature game for U Sports men’s basketball.
Kanza Mata finished with 16 points and 5 assists and Dal won despite going 0 for 13 from three-point land but kept the normally high-volume three-point shooting Golden Bears to just 3 for 13 including zero attempts from downtown by Alberta’s main three-point threat 6’5″ Geoff Pippus.
Tigers now prepare to meet #1 seeded Ryerson Rams in one championship semi-final to begin at 3:30 PM Atlantic time, 2:30 PM Eastern time start on Saturday afternoon. That game will be preceded by #2 Carleton and #3 McGill at Noon ET/1 PM AT. Both games will be broadcast by Sportsnet nationally.