Bisons crush Cougars
U of M men’s hoopsters smother Mount Royal with aggressive defence
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Kirby Schepp may have assembled the most versatile collection of talent in his 14 seasons at the helm of the University of Manitoba Bisons men’s basketball program.
But the skill thing is hardly enough; the good stuff doesn’t happen without a commitment to solid team play.
On Friday night, the No. 6-ranked Bisons showed they can dish out scrappy, ball-hawking defence just as enthusiastically as they unleash a flashy offensive display, thumping the unranked Mount Royal Cougars 91-68 in Canada West Universities Athletic Association action at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
In women’s action, the Calgary-based Cougars eked out a 62-58 win over the Bisons.
With sensational rookie forward Simon Hildebrandt supplying 18 points (14 by half-time) and five rebounds and second-year point guard Mason Kraus adding 11 points, 10 assists two rebounds, one block and three steals, the Manitoba men grabbed a five-point lead after the first quarter and expanded that to 18 at the intermission (52-34) before cruising to a seventh consecutive conference win.
Was Schepp content with what he saw?
“I don’t know about complete (effort),” he said. “I mean, I thought our energy and our pace was better than it’s been, right? And I think a big piece of that is Wyatt Tait. We haven’t had Wyatt since the last week in November. He brings a lot of pace and energy to our offence and I thought that was really missing.”
Tait, returning to the lineup after an extended layoff with an ankle injury, had 12 points and four blocks in almost 24 minutes of playing time.
There was a wealth of production throughout the Manitoba lineup, which finished the game with a 47.4-36.5 edge in shooting percentage. Isaac Miller-Jose riddled the Cougars for seven points and four steals while Tito Obasoto added 15 points. Elijah Lostracco had 11 points.
The first-place Bisons improved to 12-1, just ahead of the 12-2 Victoria Vikes, who are idle this weekend. The Cougars, meanwhile, fell to 7-6.
Manitoba’s multi-purpose forward, Cieran O’Hara, was away at a family funeral. His presence was missed.
“Hopefully we’re complete at the end of the year,” said Schepp. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. I think we were better offensively but I think there’s some things we can clean up defensively and hopefully get better.”
Holt Tomie a had team-high 22 points and Keivonte Watts added 18 for the visitors, who face Manitoba in the series finale tonight at 7 p.m.
Cougars 62 Bisons 58
The Manitoba women, who cracked the conference win column with a road sweep of the Brandon Bobcats last week, took an 18-12 lead over the Cougars after the first quarter.
The Bisons got an early spark from fifth-year guard Keziah Brothers, who had seven points and four rebounds in the opening 10 minutes.
But Manitoba sagged in the second quarter and went to halftime trailing 33-27 but stayed in the game — complete with 10 lead changes — until the closing seconds. The hosts tied the game at 55-55 on a Brothers layup with less than four minutes remaining but were unable to regain the lead.
Brothers fouled out in the final minute, leaving the game with 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and a game-high 24 points.
“I think we got a little bit rattled with Mar (Tomas Arbos) and Autumn (Agar) going out with some injuries because we weren’t getting any bench points,” said Manitoba head coach Michele Sung. “We were relying on starters in our rotation, which threw us off a bit.”
Guard Lauren Bartlett added 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals for the Bisons, who dropped to 2-11 in conference play.
Maddison Hooper led the Cougars with 21 points, while Jamie Lalor and Tanis Metcalfe chipped in with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Mount Royal improved to 7-6 in Canada West.
The teams play a rematch today at 5 p.m.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.