Host Bisons bow out early in tournament play

Bisons basketball falls prey to (un)predictable CanWest tournament results

The University of Manitoba women’s and men’s basketball teams were each in action at their respective CanWest basketball tournaments this past week.

The women’s tournament was held in Abbotsford, B.C. at the University of the Fraser Valley, and the Bisons just snuck in as the 12th and final seed.

The men’s tournament was played right here at the University of Manitoba’s Investors Group Athletic Centre (IGAC), and the men secured an automatic spot in the quarter-finals as the fourth seed.

Women’s team

As the lowest-ranked team in the CanWest tournament, going into a win-or-go-home game with a chance to get to the quarter-finals, the Bisons had nothing to lose.

The team was matched up against fifth-seeded University of Regina Cougars, on whom lay all the pressure.

Sure enough, Manitoba started the first quarter by playing tensionless basketball, forcing Regina to call an early time-out.

From that point onward, however, the Cougars crushed the herd in all facets of play, winning easily 71-45.

The herd lost because of its woeful offence, fizzing out like a firework unable to ignite. It generated a pitiful nine points in the first quarter and only seven in the fourth. Overall, the herd shot an exceptionally poor 23.6 per cent from the field, enabling it to score 45 feeble points.

Throw in its 27 team turnovers, and it would seem the Bisons were following the “how to lose brutally” recipe book.

That is not to say there were no bright spots, however.

Both Emerson Martin and Autumn Agar scored in double figures with ten points each

Lauren Bartlett also put up seven points to go along with a couple of assists and 11 rebounds.

Bartlett also recently won the CanWest Courage Overcoming Adversity award. While nursing a heavy heart, she was awarded this distinction for her leadership and her spirit, having lost her father to cancer shortly before the beginning of the season.

Bartlett finished her final season as a Bison with averages of 11.1 points per game and 4.9 assists per game. She finished with a career total of 856 points and 369 assists.

She is also in contention for the U-Sports Tracy McLeod Award, which recognizes an athlete’s “determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit.”

Overall, the herd finished with a 6-15 record and, while losing straight away, it did still make the playoffs, improving from last year.

The team will look to be even more competitive in the 2024-25 season.

Men’s team

With much pomp and glamour, IGAC was home to the CanWest men’s basketball tournament this past week. Moreover, the Bisons, as the home team, seemed poised to make a deep run.

As the fourth seed, the herd was forced to wait to find out which school it would play against in its quarter-final match — either the fifth-seeded University of British Columbia Thunderbirds or the 12th-seeded University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Timberwolves.

Surprisingly, UNBC upset the T-Birds, setting up what seemed to be a relatively easy matchup for the Bisons.

In the game, which was attended by about 2,000 supporters, the herd was led by Daren Watts and CanWest first-team all-star performer Simon Hildebrandt. Watts poured in a game-high 23 points, while Hildebrandt chipped in with 20 himself.

The herd got off to a great start, outscoring the Timberwolves by eight in the first quarter. UNBC would bite back in the second, however, as it then outscored the Bisons by eight to even the game up at the half.

The third quarter was a tight affair. The herd led by only three points entering the fourth, struggling from beyond the ark. Its three-point woes would continue, as it shot only 8-39 from three on the night.

As the herd nursed its slim lead — 73-70, with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter — it suddenly collapsed.

UNBC’s offence got hot at the right time and rode a series of free throws and layups to an 84-78 road victory.

The defeat was crushing to the Bisons, who had not lost to UNBC since the 2013-14 season, and had hopes of winning the tournament on its home court.

Meanwhile, UNBC’s Cinderella run was ended the following day in the semi-finals by the University of Victoria Vikes, who went on to win its third consecutive CanWest championship.

In what can only be considered a disappointing season, the herd will look to build off its 13-8 record and challenge for CanWest glory again next year.