If defence does indeed win championships, the University of Victoria men’s basketball team is in good shape.
The Vikes and their No. 1-ranked defence in Canada West smothered the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night at McKinnon Gym en route to an 86-70 Game 2 win and a sweep of their best-of-three quarter-final series. UVic now moves on to the Canada West Final Four tournament next weekend needing one win to advance to its first CIS national tournament since 2006.
The Bisons came to Victoria with the fourth best offence in the conference, scoring at a pace of 83 points per game. But UVic’s speed and big man Chris McLaughlin snuffed out any spark Manitoba was looking for. On Saturday, McLaughlin had 13 rebounds to go with 14 points and helped keep the Bisons well below their scoring average.
“They have some talented guys so we didn’t want to give them any easy baskets — the run-ups and layups — and we did a good job of that tonight,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp, whose club heads back to the Canada West Final four having lost the semifinal there last year.
The Vikes came flying out of the gate looking to put the dagger in Bisons early. And they succeeded, going to the break up 50-31. And they didn’t stop there. Their last 12 points of the third quarter all came via the three-point shot. Second-year guard Vijay Dhillon of Richmond finished with four three-pointers and 15 points. Vikes leading scorer Terrell Evans led the way, pouring in 21 points and chipping in eight rebounds. Fifth-year guard Michael Acheampong, in what could be his last home game as a Vike, finished with six points.
“We thought it was important [to have a good start],” Beaucamp added. “We thought the first quarter was going to be a big factor in how the game turned out. Whenever you lose the first game, it’s going to be an uphill battle so when the other team comes out hard it takes even more of the stuffing out of you, and we did exactly that.”
The Vikes’ bench was impressive as well, outscoring the Bisons’ bench 31-11.
“We got the job done. We played hard defensively. That’s Vikes basketball,” said Evens, who racked up 12 points in the first quarter. “And now we move forward. Lots of work to be done yet.”
The Bisons, who finished third in the Prairie Divisions at 16-6, stumbled down the stretch and lost the last four games of the season. Their go-to guy, guard Stephen Walton had a strong game with 26 points, but there was little help for the fourth-year player from Atlanta. They made a little push midway through the fourth quarter with 10-2 run to get to within 12, but that was it.
“The Vikes are a very good team, especially on this court,” said Bisons coach Kirby Schepp. “You just have to tip your cap to them.”
After last season’s disappointing exit in the Canada West semifinals, Beaucamp can see his Vikes are eager for some revenge.
“You could tell in the dressing room after the game. The guys weren’t hootin’ and hollerin’. They know this was just one step”
And Evans says last year was last year.
“Now we’re going to write a new chapter, our own chapter.”
And the Vikes, who finished second in the Pacific Division with a 16-6 record, are peaking at exactly the right time. Saturday’s victory was their 11th in their last 12 games.
n In women’s quarter-final action, the Vikes rebounded with a much better effort in Game 2 against the Cougars in Regina, but it still wasn’t enough to knock of the No. 2-ranked team in the country.
With a pair of clutch free throws in the dying seconds by star guard Michelle Clark, the Cougars edged the Vikes 68-66 to sweep the best-of-three series 2-0 and advance to the Canada West Final Four tournament.
Senior Debbie Yeboah nearly won the game single-handedly as she poured in a game-high 24 points and added eight rebounds.
After a 16-6 regular season, the No. 9-ranked Vikes now await the outcome of wild-card voting as they cling to hope for a trip to next month’s CIS national tournament.