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Vikes and Bobcats meet in match-up of old rivals

When UVic dynasty of 1980s faltered, Bobcats picked up the crown
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UVic’s Diego Maffia returned from injury last week. CANADA WEST

The only thing missing will be the pastel clothing in the stands and Duran Duran on the radio. An old-school men’s basketball rivalry will be revived on Ken and Kathy Shields Court at CARSA Gymnasium when the University of Victoria Vikes take on the University of Brandon Bobcats tonight and Saturday.

When the UVic dynasty of the 1980s finally faltered after seven consecutive national championships, the Bobcats were there to pick up the crown with three national championships in a row of their own to close out the 1980s.

The Vikes have won eight national titles overall, second only to Carleton’s mind-numbing 17 since 2003, but not since 1997. Brandon has four national championships, which is tied for third overall with St. Mary’s and Windsor, but none since 1996.

“All this might mean something to people who have been around the game for a while but these players don’t know much about it,” said UVic head coach Craig Beaucamp.

Between the Vikes and Bobcats, it’s UVic that looks most poised to end their combined national championship droughts, although the Bobcats are a dangerous and explosive squad that is 12-6 in conference. The Vikes are ranked No. 2 in Canada and are 11-3 in conference.

“The Bobcats have a dynamic offensive team that has swept Saskatchewan and beaten [national No. 6] Manitoba,” said Beaucamp.

“They start a small line-up with four guards but they can really shoot and score. They are the best three-point shooting team in the conference. We are going to have to limit their offence. I feel we have been gaining traction on our defensive side, so that will be key this weekend.”

Also key is the return of UVic star guard and defending Canada West MVP and U Sports national scoring champion Diego Maffia, who was his old self in shooting the Vikes past Saskatchewan with 31 and 25 points in last week’s sweep of the Huskies after missing the previous three games to injury.

“Diego is obviously our leader on and off the court and adds to our confidence,” said Beaucamp.

“But he also takes confidence away from the opposition. Their mindset changes.”

The Canada West women’s match-up tonight and Saturday at CARSA features the Vikes (4-10) and last-place Bobcats (1-17).

UVic played nationally top-ranked Saskatchewan (16-0), coached by Canadian 2016 Rio and 2000 Tokyo Olympics coach Lisa Thomaidis, tough last week despite two losses.

“We were ticked to lose. We had opportunities to win both games and I thought we let one game in particular slip away,” said Vikes coach Carrie Watts.

Just to be able to say that against the top team in the country is a sign of the UVic team’s increasing maturity.

“We are a young team that has grown a lot,” said Watts.

The Vikes began the Canada West season with seven consecutive losses. The recent turnaround has been keyed by the return from injury of six-foot-one guard Tana Pankratz.

“Having Tana in the line-up gives us more length and versatility,” said Watts.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com