Dinos men eclipse last year’s win total

The Dinos men’s basketball team continued its second-half success this weekend against the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Dinos split the series with their hinterland visitors, but against a team ranked in the top five nationally, that’s not half bad.

Jeff Loomis’ 23 points (including five three-pointers) led the Dinos to an 81-77 victory on Friday. On Saturday, the Dinos put in another strong effort, but lost 75-62 as Brad Gallup topped the scoresheet with 18 points.

"Friday was great," said Dinos head coach Cory Russell. "We played well on Saturday, too, but we didn’t shoot well–we shot 30 per cent for twos. I thought U of A played really good defense on Saturday. I suppose they’d say they played poorly on Friday, but their coaches said we deserved to win, and we did."

The Dinos’ record in 2000 is now 3-1–much better than the 1-7 record they started the season with. Russell and many of the Dinos attribute the reversal of fortune to their effort over the winter break.

"It started in early December," said guard Brad Gallup. "But we didn’t have many games to show it. We were able to regroup get confident and work on technical things. I think it shows."

"There’s a renewed commitment," added Jeff Loomis. "We can compete with the other teams, where before we were just hoping we could compete. We’ve improved offensively and defensively."

Loomis in particular has helped the Dinos turn things around, leading the team in scoring in each of the last three wins. The third-year forward, in his first year with the U of C after transferring from Grant MacEwan College, feels that he has adapted to the Dinos system, which lets him contribute more.

"Improved confidence and getting used to the way we play," are what Loomis attributes his newfound success to. "We’re playing better as a team, and that helps as an individual."

"We knew he was a good shooter," noted Russell. "We hoped he could get his shot off against better competition [like the U of A]. He’s playing better defense and his ball handling is better. He does work at it. He’s got a great work ethic, as do all the guys."

Gallup, a fifth-year guard, has become another player Russell and the Dinos count on.

"Brad Gallup was very consistent in both games," said Russell. "He’s given us that all year. It helps when we’re trying to get that from other guys."

"I was happy with the way I played," said Gallup. "But there’s always room for improvement."

The Dinos’ next opponents are the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The ‘Horns are ranked first in the country and feature scoring star Danny Balderson, and the Dinos know about the challenge they’ll be facing.

"They’ll be very tough," admits Russell. "They’re explosive on offense. They seem to play the same way no matter what the score or time of game. I really admire them for that.

"It’s kind of weird: We’re in a nice position because no one expects us to win."

Whatever happens in Lethbridge, the Dinos still have a shot at the playoffs. At 4-8, they’ve already matched last year’s win total.

"We definitely have a chance," said Loomis. "We’re a couple of games up on Trinity Western. We’re starting to peak–we’ll be a tough team to knock off in the playoffs."

In Russell’s opinion, the Dinos should continue improving, considering how far they’ve come already.

"I look at the films from the first half and it makes me sick," he says. "We’re a competitive team now. I don’t think we’re done winning."

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