Griffins unable to stick with Pronghorns, losing by 18 after getting away from game plan

Justace Byam puts up a shot against Lethbridge on Saturday night (Gerard Murray photo).
Justace Byam puts up a shot against Lethbridge on Saturday night (Gerard Murray photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – As much as the Griffins men's basketball team has taken strides forward in recent weeks, coming oh so close to their first win of the season on more than one occasion, it felt like they took a few steps back on Saturday.

MacEwan was in the game in the early stages against Lethbridge before the wheels fell off in the second half and they lost 74-56.

"We weren't playing team ball like we normally do, forcing a lot of bad shots and not playing for each other offensively and defensively," said co-captain Matthew Osunde. "It's disappointing because like we showed in other games – just yesterday actually – that we're better than that. But we didn't show it at all in the second half. 

"It's disappointing because we didn't stick with what got us into close games in the first place. And it showed on the scoreboard, obviously."

With the result, the Griffins fall to 0-13 in the Canada West standings, while the Pronghorns improve to 4-12.

Jack-Henry Fox-Grey led the Pronghorns with a double double (18 points and 10 rebounds), while Shae Gibb chipped in 10 points.

Osunde recorded his second double double of the season for the Griffins with 11 points and 13 boards, adding seven assists. Job Janda had 15 points and Milan Jaksic scored 11.

But MacEwan lost the offensive rebounding battle (16-11) and shot only 30.8 per cent to Lethbridge's 40.6. 

"I think the guys got rattled and frustrated," said head coach Mike Connolly. "They weren't very mentally tough and physically tough, and they let those emotions get to them. They didn't have the mental toughness to fight through adversity. 

"We had the ball game to 12, we had it to six a couple times, then we don't play the game, we don't rebound. We had guys who played 18-20 minutes today and didn't get a rebound. And they're returning. It's not our rookies. The young guys did a heck of a job. It was our older guys who let us down through leadership, through lack of character and through not being mentally tough."

MacEwan lost just 85-80 to Lethbridge a night earlier – a game that could have gone either way – and took Brandon to overtime last weekend in an 80-78 defeat. Both of those games indicated the Griffins are close to finally getting in the win column.

Saturday, though, they were only really in the driver's seat early in the first quarter before the Pronghorns went on a 13-0 run to lead 22-8 after 10 minutes.

After MacEwan struck back with a 7-0 run in the second quarter, Lethbridge kind of settled into a groove and controlled the game the rest of the way.

Osunde said they know what to do to find success, it's just a matter of going out there and executing.

"Stick to what got us here – team ball," he said. "When the ball's jumping around, and we're cutting, moving, and flying around defensively, we can play with just about anybody in the league. When we start playing a bit more ISO ball, not moving around, defensively, lackadaisical, we lose by 20. 

"It's that simple."

Next up for MacEwan is a road trip to Winnipeg next weekend.