Opening halves were the story of the weekend for the University of Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team, as they split a Nov. 17-18 series at home to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Friday, the team trailed 47-37 at half time, the fourth time this season the team had been down at the half. Coming into the weekend, the Dinos had only led at half time once, Fri., Nov. 10 against the Simon Fraser University Clan, a game they went on to win 84-66.
However, like last weekend against the Trinity Western University Spartans, the Dinos went on to outscore their opponents in the final half for the 91-85 win Friday.
The Dinos were led by Robbie Sihota, who came off the bench and put up 21 points in only 19 minutes of playing time.
Going into Saturday, the Dinos were hoping to come out with a better first half, and they managed to hit the buzzer with a 34-33 lead over the Pronghorns. Unfortunately, the ‘Horns controlled the bulk of the play in the half, at times leading the Dinos by as much as eight points.
“We were up 34-33 at the half,” said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren. “For us, based on the way we’ve been playing, that’s a pretty commanding lead.”
“Defensively, to tell you the truth, I don’t think we were playing too much defence in the first half,” said guard Josh Feist. “I don’t know why. It shouldn’t have been that close. We weren’t there mentally. We had spurts where we were okay, and we just let up. They started hitting shots, and getting easy ones. That’s why it was so close.”
Feist played 38 minutes of Friday’s game, every minute of the game on Saturday, and currently leads the Dinos with a 34.5 minute-per-game average.
The game remained close in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with no team gaining more than a four-point advantage. Like the first, the second half was played tight defensively, including a two-and-a-half minute span when not a single whoosh of the basket was to be had.
“They play good D, we play good D,” said Vanhooren. “Both teams know each other. It’s hard to beat teams twice, that’s just the way it goes.”
After the scoreless drought, the Dinos caught fire. Feist sunk a three to kick off a 9-0 run for the Dinos, allowing them to build their biggest lead of the game, 63-55. With four-and-a-half minutes remaining, the Dinos were sitting pretty with a nine point lead, and then it all started to fall apart. The ‘Horns went on a 10-point run, as the Dinos turned the ball over twice, missed four shots, and were out-rebounded 4-2.
“They got two open threes, and started hitting them,” said Feist. “Turnovers down at their end didn’t help either. [It was a]combination of things defensively and offensively just not executing. That’s kind of how the unravelling came about.”
With 1:39 remaining, the ‘Horns took a single point advantage. A Pronghorns foul allowed the Dinos to tie it up on a Sihota free-throw, before the ‘Horns took a two point lead with nine seconds remaining. The Dinos charged down the court as the clock ticked off, finally securing a 69-69 draw and an overtime session with a lay-up from Sihota.
The five minute overtime session started in favour of the Dinos, as the home squad built up a solid five point advantage with 3:46 remaining. However, turnovers and ice-cold shooting allowed the ‘Horns to go on an eight point run, building a three point lead they wouldn’t surrender. The game finished in a 78-75 victory for the Pronghorns.
The loss, which evened the Dinos record at 3-3, may hurt them come playoff time, as the ‘Horns are a divisional foe, and inter-divisional games largely determine playoff seeding.
“Everybody knows that our divisional games are huge,” said Vanhooren. “For us to lose one to them in our home gym is a tough one. We had them on the ropes. We had a pretty good opportunity to win this game and take a big commanding lead on them. We’re still in great position, [at] 3-3. Quite honestly, everybody’s going to be in the hunt when it comes down to the crunch at the end of the year anyway.”
Feist’s 21 points and eight assists earned him the Dinos player of the game award. The 5’9″ point guard would’ve much rather had the win.
“It was good, but I would’ve liked the win a lot better,” said Feist. “We had a pretty good opportunity tonight to set ourselves pretty nice for the rest of the season.”