Kellen Taniguchi, University of Manitoba Bisons Communications
WINNIPEG– The University of Manitoba Bisons men's basketball team stomped back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the University of Regina Cougars 94-84 in thrilling comeback fashion to take Game One of the best-of-three Canada West play-in series, on Thursday, February 16 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.
With the win, Manitoba can advance to the Canada West Quarter-finals with a victory in Game Two Friday night, while Regina needs a win to force a deciding third game.
"I'm happy with the competitiveness" said Bisons head coach Kirby Schepp. "We competed, we had a little fire, and that's what the playoffs are all about."
The Bisons were led by AJ Basi's game-high 24 points, 17 of which came in the second half comeback, and Keith Omoerah's double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Cougars were led by Brian Ofori's double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.
"We had to pick up the life" said Bisons guard AJ Basi of the second half comeback. "We had to pick up our energy on defense, and it carried over to offense."
The teams exchanged shots throughout the opening frame, with neither able to go on a big run. Treys fell for both sides in the quarter, with four falling for the visitors and three for the home side. Manitoba struggled to get the ball to fall, shooting just 38.1 per cent from the field, while the Cougars found the twine on 56.3 per cent of their shots. AJ Basi netted seven points for the Herd, but Regina was able to take a 24-22 lead into the second.
The visitors stormed the court in the second, opening on a 21-6 run. The Cougars were able to build a big lead due to Manitoba's continued struggles from the field, shooting a dismal 23.5 per cent in the quarter. Regina was able to take control of the three-point line, converting another four in the quarter, while Manitoba missed on all seven attempts. Brian Ofori led both sides with 14 points in the first half, with 11 of them coming in the second. The Cougars dropped a whopping 52 points in the opening half, while holding the Bisons to just 36.
AJ Basi took over in the third quarter, putting up 14 points in the frame, and Justus Alleyn added another seven for the home team. The Bisons went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to just three points, which got the home crowd roaring. Manitoba turned their shooting woes around, and connected on 63.6 per cent of their shots in the third, and held Regina to just 30.8 per cent from the field. Momentum heavily favoured the home team throughout the third, resulting in a tie game at 67 points entering the final quarter of play.
The Cougars were able to get on the board first to take a 69-67 lead, but the Herd strung together nine straight points with James Wagner, Malik Irwin, Justus Alleyn, and Keith Omoerah all getting in on the run. The visitors would cut the lead to 76-72, but Basi responded with five unanswered points, which included an and-one to get the crowd on their feet and increase the Bison lead to 81-72. Manitoba would ride the momentum to a 94-84 game-one victory.
The two teams will play again in game two of the play-in series tomorrow, Friday, February 17; tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. CT at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.
MAN: AJ Basi (26)
REG: Brian Ofori (19)
MAN: Ilarion Bonhomme (9)
REG: Alex Igual (5)
MAN: Keith Omoerah (11)
REG: Brian Ofori (12)