By Danielle Doiron
Winnipeg, MB – After splitting their season-opening series on the road last weekend, the University of Manitoba Bison men's basketball team gave the home crowd something to celebrate on Friday night – a 90-68 win over the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.
"It feels great, obviously, to get a win," Bison head coach Kirby Schepp said. "Thompson Rivers is an extremely well-coached team, very disciplined. You saw early on they execute so well. Any time we can get a win against a team of that quality, it's pretty good."
With the win, the Bisons improve to 2-1, while Thompson Rivers falls to 0-3.
Bison guard Keith Omoerah led both teams with 20 points. Thompson Rivers' Luke Morris and Volodymyr Iegorov had 19 and 18, respectively.
"It was certainly a tight game. We wanted to make it a physical game as much as we possibly could," Schepp said. "I think they're very much a structured team, and you try to be as physical as you can to get them out of that structure. Early on, that didn't work too well for us, but we kept going and going, and we were fortunate enough to get to the free throw line a good chunk.
The lead changed hands twice in the first quarter, but Thompson Rivers five-year forward Iegorov stole the show. He dunked to score the first two points of the game then added a pair of dunks less than a minute apart later in the quarter. The WolfPack defence held the Bisons to only one three-point jumper (courtesy of AJ Basi) in the final four minutes of the quarter, and the visitors pulled ahead to lead 20-15 after one.
The WolfPack maintained their slight lead through most of the second, despite a surge from the Bison offence. Thompson Rivers led by three points when Manitoba's Brett was charged with a disputed push-from-behind call. The WolfPack sunk one of the ensuing free throws to take a 36-32 lead, but the Bisons came back with an Alleyn jump shot and a free throw of their own to bring the game within one. James Wagner sunk a jumper and Ilarion Bonhomme made a free throw to put the Bisons up 36-38 at the half.
After a quick offensive burst that saw the Bisons and WolfPack rack up a combined eight points (a jump shot and three-pointer for Manitoba and a three-point shot for Thompson Rivers) in the opening 53 seconds of the third, neither team scored for almost three minutes.
The Bisons kept up a slight lead through most of the quarter, until a Morris jump shot tied the game at 52 with less than two minutes left. The teams tied again at 55 before the home side jumped out in front. A Madhu McConnell jump shot brought the WolfPack within one, but Alleyn countered with a three-point jumper to close the third with the Bisons up 62-60.
But the Bison defence shone in the final quarter. The home side put up seven steals in the fourth alone and held the WolfPack to only one point in the first four minutes and eight points in the quarter overall.
Manitoba's offence, meanwhile, leapt out front. Omoerah's basket less than three minutes into the quarter extended the Bisons' lead to double-digits. Five jump shots later (including a three-pointer from Jonathan Alexander and a pair from Jewell), the home side stretched that lead to 82-63 and eventually closed out the game with a 90-68 win.
Schepp credits the win to the Bisons' "defensive intensity."
"Really, our run in the fourth quarter came (when) we essentially just wore them down," Schepp said. "They just got fatigued, basically, because we were playing hard for the whole game and really getting nothing out of it for the first 2 ½, three quarters … and then you could see them just start to make more mental errors … That was our game plan, and hopefully we can do that again tomorrow."
The two-game weekend set continues on Saturday at 6 p.m. aCT t Investors Group Athletic Centre.
MB: Keith Omoerah (20)
TR: Luke Morris (19)
MB: Keith Omoerah (4), Justus Alleyn (4), Ilarion Bonhomme (4)
TR: four players (2)
MB: Keith Omoerah (5), Malik Irwin (5)
TR: Mike Rouault (7)