Defensive lapses overshadow building blocks for Griffins in 105-78 loss to rival Golden Bears

Jesse Trussler drives to the hoop on Thursday. He scored 12 points for the Griffins (Eduardo Perez photo).
Jesse Trussler drives to the hoop on Thursday. He scored 12 points for the Griffins (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Flying out to a 20-point lead after the first quarter, the Alberta Golden Bears rode the hot-hand of Dwan Williams – who nailed six three-pointers – to a 105-78 win over cross-town rival MacEwan in Canada West men's basketball action Thursday night.

Williams shot 75 per cent from beyond the arc as he finished with 20 points in just 17:42 on the floor. Tyus Jefferson added 19 in 18:15 of action, while Andre Kelly had 11 points and seven assists and Adam Paige chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds.

"Dwan's more than just a three and D guy, but last year he was defensive player of the year in the conference and he can obviously shoot the ball," said Alberta head coach Barnaby Craddock. "He's the heart and soul of our team. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, he's a passionate kid and a fifth-year guy. We're going to miss him. He set the tone for us tonight."

With the result, Alberta improves to 12-1 in the Canada West standings, while MacEwan remains winless, falling to 0-13.

It would be easy to point to MacEwan's first quarter as the reason for their demise as they fell behind 29-9, despite scoring the game's first four points. There was a stretch of nearly eight minutes where the Griffins didn't hit a shot as they came undone under the weight of 10 first-quarter turnovers.

But after that, the Bears scored just seven more points than the Griffins the rest of the way and were outplayed for portions in the middle of the game.

"Credit to MacEwan. They scored a bunch of points in the second and third quarters," said Craddock. "(Mike) Connolly does a great job with those guys, he has them playing together and they made some good baskets and play well there. We were fortunate to get up on them early and hold on."

But the Griffins bench boss wasn't about to call anything a building block in a 27-point loss that could have turned out differently if not for a haphazard defensive effort.

"I really don't think we can take anything," said Connolly. "Our defence wasn't that good. Yes, we played with them, but if we could have got some defensive stops … that's got to be a priority.

"We're not winning if we don't play D. We're not going to win a championship, we're not going to win anything. So, we've got to instill that. We can't worry about our offence until we take care of that."

It's a shame because there were plenty of solid offensive plays, particularly from bench players Jesse Trussler – who ignited the Griffins in outscoring the Bears 27-21 in the second quarter and finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists – and Gregoire Piche-Wint, a second-half stud who led MacEwan in scoring with 15 points.

"They play with energy and passion. That's the difference," said Connolly. "Then they step up and they play.

"We've just got to keep working with them and getting them better, that's all it is."

Jake Notice added 14 points for MacEwan, while Abdullah Shittu had 13 and Deonte Doslov-Doctor scored 12.

Despite some balanced scoring from the Griffins, Alberta was in control the entire game. Craddock has some teaching points and building blocks to take into Saturday's rematch (7 p.m., Saville Centre, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

"We've got to try and not let them outscore as they did for chunks of the game," he said. "Obviously, they'll probably have some confidence from scoring well like that in the middle chunk of the game and we've got to step it up. But I was really happy with how Dwan started off for us and set the tone and I thought Tyus was strong for us as well."