Rivalry renewed

The cross town athletic rivalry between the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg was renewed Dec. 1, as the basketball portion of the 2011 Duckworth Challenge took place at the Investors Group Athletic Centre on U of M’s campus.

The event was the brainchild of the late Dr. Henry E. Duckworth, who presided as the president of the University of Winnipeg from 1971-81, and then as the chancellor of the University of Manitoba from 1986-92. He felt that the challenge would help facilitate and grow the friendly cross-town rivalry between the two universities.

Started in 1992, the annual athletic challenge pits the University of Manitoba Bisons and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams against one another. The school that wins more games wins the coveted Duckworth Challenge plaque.

“When you have two universities this close together, it almost determines a mini-city championship,” said Bison men’s basketball head coach Kirby Schepp, who knows all about the Duckworth Challenge — having played for the Wesmen men’s basketball team from 1993-96.

“Anytime you can put some hardware on the line and come out with something, it just adds a little bit extra.”

The Bisons have won the past two Duckworth Challenges, and overall have a Duckworth Challenge record of 10-5-5. On top of the civic pride, there are also crucial points in the Canada West standings on the line — heading into the game, the two women’s teams were tied in the standings, while the men’s teams were separated by one win.

The first game of the 21st edition of the Duckworth Challenge pitted the Bisons women’s basketball team against their Wesmen counterparts.

The first half was closely contested, as both teams reignited their intense rivalry by forcing turnovers and moving the ball up and down the court. Everyone played a solid first half, with the Wesmen taking a slim 26-24 lead into the half.

The Wesmen would extend their lead in the third, as they outscored the Bisons 2:1, taking a 42-32 lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, the Bisons scored a quick three to start the quarter, before the Wesmen tightened up their defence and held on for the 56-42 victory.

With the Winnipeg victory, the pressure was on the Manitoba men’s basketball team to even up the Duckworth Challenge in their game.

Fortunately for the U of M fans in attendance, the Bisons were up to the task, as they dominated on both sides of the ball and came to within one point of a triple digit final score.

Kurtis Sansregret led the Bisons with 21 points, as the Bisons took a 13 point lead into the fourth quarter and overcame a late surge by the Wesmen to take the victory 99-80.

With the basketball side of the challenge in the books, each school earning a win, all eyes focus on the volleyball games. This year’s Duckworth Challenge has been split up, the volleyball portion of the challenge won’t be played until Feb. 1 at the U of W campus.