EDMONTON – The race started and the Griffins were still parked on the line.
The visiting Mount Royal University Cougars, on the other hand, punched it, racing to a 21-point lead after the first quarter and never looking back in a comfortable 102-62 triumph in Canada West men's basketball action on Friday night.
"We didn't come out and play with energy," lamented MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "We had energy (coming into the game) and I had a good feeling. But we were apprehensive defensively, we didn't attack offensively, we looked out of sync … it was just the worst half we've had."
There's not much a team can do when its left chasing a game as badly as the Griffins were in their own gym on Friday.
"I just think we didn't start well," said Connolly. "We've got to get after it. We didn't get after it defensively, we didn't play with the same urgency, we didn't push the ball and we missed shots. I think that was because at the beginning of the game we were hesitant on offence. We didn't shoot with confidence and that got to us in our young minds."
With the result, MRU improves to 6-9 in the standings, dropping winless MacEwan to 0-13.
Nate Petrone led the Cougars with 18 points, while Holt Tomie produced a double double (14 points and 10 boards), adding seven assists.
The stats that really told the tale? Shooting percentage. The Cougars went 51.4 per cent from the field, while MacEwan was just 31.0.
MRU particularly dominated inside, outscoring the Griffins in the paint 54-24.
If there is anything the Griffins can hang their hats on, it's their play in the third quarter when they outscored MRU 24-19.
"We brought it back and had a good third quarter," acknowledged Connolly. "Then we relaxed in the fourth and they got up on us."
In contrast to a week earlier when MacEwan only played with seven guys against Alberta, including former team manager Bradley Roslinski, they got a few players back from injuries and played 11 in the contest.
Job Janda made a difference in his first action since Jan. 28 and Connolly also singled out Trussler, who stood out on a tough night.
"I thought Job did well coming back," he said. "I thought Jesse's playing his heart out. He's leading us. He's our backbone. I am really happy with him."
And for those keeping score in the heartwarming tale of Roslinski, documented in a Global Edmonton report earlier this week, the team's former manager saw action again, playing the final 1:35 of the game without recording a stat.
The teams will meet again on Saturday (7 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).