Late rally comes up short for Griffins in loss to Cougars

Marco Correas flies through the air as he launches a shot on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).
Marco Correas flies through the air as he launches a shot on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jason Hills
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The MacEwan Griffins learned a valuable lesson of what they can do when they play with more desperation.

Down 21 points going into the fourth quarter, and by as many as 24 early in it, the Griffins attempted a fierce late comeback, but fell 87-79 to the Mount Royal Cougars on Saturday night at the David Atkinson Gym.

Damilola Osuma led the Griffins with 22 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while Matthew Osunde recorded 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the loss for MacEwan who fell to 0-2 this season.

Holt Tomie led Mount Royal (2-0) with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in the victory.

"Our guys learned a lesson here about bringing energy the next day after playing such a big game the night before. We didn't bring the energy until the end, and that really affected our offence and defence," said Griffins head coach Mike Connolly.

"We didn't push it in the beginning, we walked. Our defence wasn't active until the end, and then we started to get rewarded, because we were active."

MacEwan trailed 22-16 after the opening quarter and Mount Royal was able to extend their lead to 15 points, with a 47-32 lead at the half.

MacEwan's offence was clicking in their season opener, but on Saturday, especially in the first half they struggled to knock down shots from distance. They finished the first half just 2-for-10 from deep, while Mount Royal was 7-for-11.

Osuma provided the bulk of the Griffins offence in the first half, with 14 points.

"If we could put together last night's shooters, and the performance we got from Dami tonight, then we're a complete team, and much tougher to play against. We haven't been able to get everyone on the same page collectively, offensively, but we'll get there," said Connolly.

"We'll learn from a lesson like this. We're still growing. We're competing. We're going to win some games, but have to continue to push forward."

The shooting woes continued for MacEwan as they struggled to knock down some key shots at times. MRU held their biggest lead of the game midway through the third quarter at 58-34.

Down big going into the fourth quarter, the Griffins showed some fight and outscored Mount Royal 26-13, as their offence finally started to heat up, but they just simply dug themselves too big of a hole to come back from.

Milan Jaksic grabbed an offensive board and put back a nice shot to cut Mount Royal's lead to 82-74, and Marco Correas had a strong second half, scoring 12 of his 14 points.

Jaksic finished with a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds), while Correas tallied 14 points and eight rebounds.

"Tonight we were stagnant (offensively). We didn't penetrate and kick the ball out. You have to play with pace, and I thought we played down to their pace, and I need us to cut hard and move the ball," said Connolly.

"We have to be better defensively, because it has to be there when you're not getting the offence going."

MacEwan showed they can hang with Mount Royal in their two season-opening losses, but the biggest disparity came at the free throw line. In Friday's loss, Mount Royal was 36-of-52 from the free throw line, while MacEwan was 12-of-22. In Saturday's loss, Mount Royal finished 19-of-29 from the charity stripe, while MacEwan got to the line just nine times, knocking down two free throws.

"We need to find ways to put more (offensive) pressure on them to get more calls," said Connolly.

"We're still growing, learning and maturing. There are a lot of positives, but tonight, we lacked energy and some toughness. They beat us to some loose balls and took some balls right from our hands, and you have to go play with vengeance and battle through those things."

MacEwan will travel to Saskatoon next week to battle the Saskatchewan Huskies on Nov. 10-11.