Written by: Kellen Taniguchi
Winnipeg, MB – The University of Manitoba Bisons men's basketball team swept the University of Regina Cougars in their best-of-three play-in series with an 88-80 win on Friday, February 17 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre. The victory comes a day after their 94-84 comeback win last night.
With the win, the Bisons advance to the Canada West Quarter-finals for the second straight season and will travel to play the UBC Thunderbirds in a best-of-three series, while the Cougars season has come to an end. Manitoba played the Thunderbirds in UBC during the November 18-19 weekend, and lost both games by close scores of 96-89 and 75-72.
"We learnt some stuff when we played them, hopefully they didn't learn as much as we did" said Bisons head coach Kirby Schepp of their upcoming opponents the UBC Thunderbirds. "They've only lost one game the entire season, it will be no easy task, but I feel like we're playing good ball and I'll go to war with these guys any day."
Manitoba was led by their captains Justus Alleyn who scored a game-high 20 points and AJ Basi who added another 18 for the home side, while Regina was led by Brandon Tull and his 19 points.
"The guys were really hungry to win this one" Schepp said. "They did not want to play a Saturday game, do or die situation. We just had great energy on both sides, and we really moved the ball."
Manitoba was up 7-5 early in the game, before going on a 12-0 run to take a big 19-5 lead. During the run, AJ Basi put up five of his seven first quarter points and Joey Nitychoruk put up another four for the Bisons. The teams exchanged a few points throughout the remainder of the first, with the home side taking a 28-13 lead into the second frame. Manitoba held the visitors to just 35.7 per cent shooting and forced seven Cougar turnovers, while shooting 54.5 per cent themselves in the opening quarter.
The competitiveness rose in the second quarter, as neither team was able to go on a substantial run. The teams exchanged looks, with Regina outscoring Manitoba 20-18 in the quarter. Brandon Tull was a major factor for the Cougars, scoring seven of his nine first half points in the second quarter, while Justus Alleyn kept pace with eight of his 13 first half points coming in the frame. After a poor first half outing in game-one, the Bisons took a commanding 46-33 lead into halftime.
Down 50-38 early in the third quarter, the Cougars strung together seven consecutive points to cut the Bison lead down to just five points. The home side responded with AJ Basi completing a three-point play, which sparked an 8-0 Bison run. The visitors cut the lead to 58-49, before the Herd went on another 8-0 run, powered by three-pointers courtesy of Malik Irwin and AJ Basi. Manitoba led 66-51 after the third, with Basi netting eight points in the frame.
Basi opened up the final quarter with a trey, increasing the home team's lead to 69-51. With the Bisons up 74-56, Regina went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 11 points, but an Ilarion Bonhomme shot stopped the run, and momentum. The Cougars were able to cut the lead down to five points with just over two minutes to play thanks to a Brandon Tull three, and a Johneil Johnson steal and basket. James Wagner would slam the nail in the coffin with a big dunk with little to no time remaining to get the crowd roaring. The Bisons would roll onto win by a score of 88-80, and advance to the Canada West quarter-finals.
Manitoba will be back in action during the February 23-25 weekend (all games at 9 p.m. CT), when they take on the UBC Thunderbirds in the Canada West Quarter-finals best-of-three series, while Regina's season comes to an end after their play-in series loss to the Bisons.
MAN: Justus Alleyn (20)
REG: Brandon Tull (19)
MAN: Ilarion Bonhomme (7)
REG: Alex Igual, Travis Sylvestre, Benjamin Hillis, and Matthew Augustine (3)
MAN: Keith Omoerah and Ilarion Bonhomme (9)
REG: Brian Ofori (8)