Playing with fire

Men’s basketball swept by streaking Huskies

The University of Manitoba Bison men’s basketball team ran into one of the hottest teams in the Canada West this past weekend, falling in two tightly contested matchups against the Saskatchewan Huskies. The visitors came to town on a four-game winning streak, and still haven’t lost since returning from winter break.

Getting to the free throw line was key on the weekend – especially in the second half, where Saskatchewan doubled Manitoba’s attempts from the charity stripe both nights.

Friday night’s 92-87 Huskies victory featured a relatively equal stat line. The difference came down to rebounding and free throw percentage. The Huskies grabbed 45 boards, compared to Manitoba’s 34, and were 12-of-16 at the line in the second half. The Bisons were a lowly 6-of-13, despite recording less fouls (27-21) than their opponents.

AJ Basi was tremendous in the loss. Thrust into the starting five, due to a nagging Andre Arruda ankle injury, he recorded a game-high 33 points, going 14-of-22 from the field. Basi felt that the team had a few advantages penetrating into the paint, which helped open up his scoring chances.

“We were just playing an open, motion offence. We didn’t call any plans today,” Basi said. It was just moving, pitching, and sharing the ball.”

While Basi’s presence in the starting lineup was felt, it also resonated in a negative way for the reserve players. Manitoba got just 11 points from their bench, compared to 35 for Saskatchewan, which was big in a close second half where each team scored 46 points. If the home team was healthy, the game’s story may have been different.

Basi echoed what the stat line read post-game, in terms of getting to the glass.

“The main key was rebounding,” Basi said. “We were minus 10 at the half. The shooting numbers were even – three-pointers, field goals, free throws; it was just rebounding.”

Saturday’s rematch featured a fourth quarter barrage from Saskatchewan, who doubled the Bisons in points, 32-16, winning the otherwise close game, 87-81.

Free throw shooting was huge for the Huskies. Saskatchewan was 70.6 per cent at the line in the game, on 34 attempts, while Manitoba shot 66.7 per cent, but only had 15 attempts. That made the difference in the fourth quarter, where Saskatchewan essentially won the game on free throws.

Matthew Forbes and Ben Baker led the way for the Huskies, with 22 and 19 points, respectively. Not coincidentally, those two players also had the most free throw attempts in the game. Forbes went 6-for-8, while Baker went 11-of-13.

Baker’s shooting percentage from the charity stripe was big, as he only went 4-of-11 from the field.

Justus Alleyn played admirably in the Bison loss. He went 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, including a number of late three-pointers to keep the game close. Alleyn finished with a game-leading 28 points.

The Bisons’ next action will be in the Duckworth Challenge against cross-town rivals, Winnipeg Wesmen on Jan. 30, and 31. Friday’s game takes place at 8 p.m. at the David F. Anderson Gymnasium, while Saturday’s matchup will take place at Investors Group Athletic Centre at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game is also senior night for Manitoba.