Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Red hot from behind the arc, the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team kept pace with the nationally-ranked Calgary Dinos, going punch for punch in the first half on Saturday night.
Although they ultimately fell 83-62 as their defence buckled in the third quarter, it was an impressive response for a team that was so far out of Friday's 78-42 loss to the Dinos they could have called it at half-time.
"I thought our defence was a little bit better and we moved the ball," said MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "We moved the ball and created shots. That's all you've got to do. We still have young guys who think they have to do it all themselves instead of letting the team work. At least we were letting thing work and we were doing some good things.
"Then in the third quarter, we stopped doing what we were doing. We stopped defending a little bit, letting the ball go to the rim and we stopped moving. We can't do that. We've got to keep it simple right now."
With the result, the Dinos – who are ranked No. 9 in U SPORTS – move to 3-1 on the season, while the Griffins fall to 0-4.
Dinos' leading scorer Noah Wharton was, at times, unstoppable in the contest, scoring 28 points to pace the visitors, while Ezeoha Santiago chipped in 13.
Joshua Edwards was a bright spot for MacEwan, scoring 22 points, while both rookie Matthew Osunde (12 points) and veteran Jesse Trussler (11 points) caught fire from three-point land, going 4-for-5 and 3-for-6, respectively.
"I thought Josh played well," said Connolly. "He's been battling some injuries. I thought he fought through today and played well. And Matt played well and shot the ball."
As a team, the Griffins knocked down 10 of 24 three-point attempts, while the Dinos were no slouch in that department, either, hitting 11 of 27.
Connolly noted their offensive success came from ball movement.
"We work on shooting all day," he said. "So, they move the ball and we just get shots. Today we made them, yesterday we missed them. That's what's going to happen."
But top-level teams like the Dinos – a program which won the U SPORTS national championship in 2018 – need just a few lapses to turn close games into routs. They didn't quite do that, but in the blink of an eye in the third quarter they turned a two possession game into a double-digit lead and never looked back.
"It was twofold: we didn't play as well defensively, but then when we don't move the ball, they got easy runs," said Connolly. "When we don't move the ball, we run into their defence and don't get offensive boards, so we just kind of come down and shoot it. They haven't had to move and now they can run. That's not good for us. That's poor selection."
Next up for the Griffins is a road trip to Lethbridge Dec. 3-4, which will close out first semester play. They're next at home on Jan. 14-15 vs. cross-town rival Alberta.
"We just have to keep working and keep getting better," said Connolly. "We've got 13 games after Christmas."