Dalhousie Tigers are going back to the CIS Men’s Basketball Final 8 after defeating the UPEI Panthers 87-85 in one of the greatest Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Championship games of all-time and becoming the first team to win back-to-back AUS conference titles since 2006.
It’s never easy defending championships and the cool, calm Dalhousie Tigers did just that, fighting-off a 16-point first-quarter deficit after a Panther like 20-4 opening game run by UPEI, in the first six minutes. For there the game turned into a classic as the champs finally settled down, holding the red hot Panthers scoreless for over four minutes between quarters eventually tying and taking a 36-33 lead late in the second-quarter before couple of Panther layups kept them ahead 37-36 at half-time.
UPEI’s All-Star Tyler Scott closed out his brilliant university career by scoring 23-points for the Panthers and drilled three out of his five triples in the opening minutes of the third-quarter to help push the Panthers lead to 50-44. Dalhousie immediately responded with pin-point execution, working the ball down low to tournament MVP Kashrell Lawrence (14 points, 7 rebounds) taking a 61-57 advantage to the fourth and final ten minutes.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain and the conferences only automatic bid to the national championships at stake both teams gave their absolute effort with five out the games ten ties coming in the last quarter (65-65, 76-76, 79-79, 81-81, 83-83). The last one being the key turning point as Dalhousie Tigers fourth-year, 5’11 first-team all-star point guard Richie Kaza Mata (Toronto, Ont.) went the length of the court in less than three seconds and bullied his way to an improbable, tough, And1 basket putting them up for good at 84-83 with just 31 seconds left on the clock. Kaza Mata finished with a game-high 21 points and eight assists on 7-of-19 shooting to lead all five starters in double-figures. Cedric Sanogo 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, Sven Stammberger 13 points, 4 rebounds and AUS Rookie of the Year Jordan Aquino-Serjue (Montreal, Que.) knocked in some key buckets on his way to 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Four UPEI players reached double-figures, Milorad Sedlarevic (Slovenia) scored 10 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, Bradley States added 15 points, 8 rebounds including a nasty one-hander that swung momentum in the late stages, conference All-Rookie team Amin Suleman 12 points, five assists and Dut Dut game-high 14 rebounds. The Panthers held a slim 38-36 edge on the glass but failed to capitalize on their early lead largely due to their 22 turnovers – resulting in 27 points scored for the savy Dalhousie Tigers who get nearly a week and half off to prepare and march on for another shot at the schools first ever CIS Men’s basketball National Championship.
A few days after being named AUS Coach of the Year, third-year head coach Rick Plato will now make his second straight nationals appearance and with the Cinderella run the previous year behind them, that saw the fifth-ranked Tigers come-up one point short, (57-56 QF loss, Victoria Vikes) of a national semi-final appearance at the 2015 CIS Final 8 the Tigers will be looking to roar a little louder this time around.
2016 AUS Basketball Championships All-Stars & MVP
MVP Kashrell Lawrence – Dalhousie Tigers
Richie Kanza Mata – Dalhousie Tigers
Tyler Scott – UPEI Panthers
Osman Barrie – Saint Mary Huskies
Bradly States – UPEI Panthers
Highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide Return To Canada
The Alabama Crimson Tide led by former NBA Head Coach Avery Johnson, a 16-year veteran and NBA champion point-guard during his playing days will bring his highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide to Canada for series of games against Canada’s top university basketball programs.
The Crimson Tide will visit both Montreal and Ottawa for a three-game exhibition schedule against McGill Redmen (Mon Aug 7), Carleton Ravens (Wed Aug 9) and the Ottawa Gee-Gees (Thu Aug 10).
The Tide competed hard last year and took a step in the right direction with a 19-15 record, 10-8 SEC record and have NCAA March Madness tournament aspirations thanks to solid recruiting class which ranks amongst the nations best.
Led by a talented crop of returning guards, Dazon Ingram (10.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Riley Norris (9 PPG, 3 RPG), the coaches son Avery Johnson Jr. and forwards Braxton Key the Tide will be a handful for the it’s Canadian opposition.
Key a 6’8″, 220 lbs flirted with the 2017 NBA draft after a stellar freshman season, the Charlotte, NC native led ‘Bama in scoring with 12 point per game and was second in rebounding at 5.7 per game. The Tide will also welcome incoming red-shirt sophomore 6’10”, 240lbs Daniel Giddens to a line-up that returns four starters.
Alabama anchored by current NBA player Alonzo Gee (Denver Nuggets) last visited Canada back in 2007 and finished with a record of 4-1 against the same exact teams, dropping a tight 83-72 decision against the Carleton Ravens who have won seven straight Canadian titles including 13-of the-last-15 championships.
Carleton’s signature win over Alabama was only their second ever against a NCAA division one team after 16-game losing streak from 1999 to 2006. The Ravens current record against NCAA teams in Canada stands at an impressive 26-23 (.531%) record.
Calgary Dinos Thomas Cooper Senior Highlights
Calgary Dinos senior guard Thomas Cooper had himself and impressive CIS/Usports career to say the least. The Chattanooga, Tenn. native, a 6-5, 200 lbs guard earned himself two first team All-Canadian awards while leading Dinos back to the championship game for the first time since 1966.
No. 1 Carleton Ravens 81-40 lock-up rivals No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees
Ottawa, ON – The twelve-time defending CIS/USports National Basketball Champions and No.1 Carleton Ravens went into Monpetit Hall and completely dominated the No. 2 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees, locking up their Bytown rivals with a blistering 81-40 win.
The Ravens, the top defensive unit in the country, allowing an incredible low of only 60 points to opponents, dominated every aspect of the much anticipated game holding Ottawa to four points in the first-quarter and thirteen in the second for a grand total of seventeen first-half points and 35-17 half-time lead.
The first-quarter ended with Ravens leading 11-4 as both teams slugged it out in front of a jam packed standing room only Monpetit Hall which hasn’t seen the Gee-Gees get dismantled like this on their home floor in 32-game OUA conference games – snapping home winning streak which dated back to 2012.
Fifth-year senior Guard Connor Wood caught fire in the second-quarter after a cold start scoring all but 14 of the teams 24 points in the quarter and finished with 16 in the half and game-high 19 points. Starting point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane added 10 points, six rebounds in just 19 minutes.
The Gee-Gees were limited to 6-of-32 (18.8%) shooting, 3-of-17 from the outside in the opening 20 minutes and managed to only connect on 12-56 (21.4%) of their field goal attempts for the entire game and only 6-of-26 from the outside.
Carleton shot 50% in the second-half and finished 31-68 from the floor and 13-of-28 from downtown while turning the ball over 9 times compared to the Gee-Gees 18.
The 40 points allowed by the Ravens is their lowest against the Gee-Gees since a 74-34 smack-down in January 18th, 2012 at the Sixth Annual Capital Hoops Classic.
Carleton Ravens 6’10” freshman Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, ON) and senior forward Ryan Ejim (Toronto, ON) finished one point shy of double-doubles with 9 points and 8 rebounds respectively, and shutdown the Gee-Gees dynamic duo of Caleb Agada (12 points, 4 rebounds) and former Ravens Jean Emmanuel Pierre (7 points, 6 rebounds). Gee-Gees Guard Brandon Robinson had a team-high 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 3-of-4 triples.
Carleton’s record stays unblemished at a perfect 10-0, 16-0 against Canadian competition and 22-2 overall with the only losses coming from two NCAA opponents on the road in Rhode Island – Providence Friars 87-69 and in Philadelphia against LaSalle Explorers 79-73.
Both teams will meet again in just over two weeks (Feb 3rd) at the 2017 Capital Hoops Classic at the ScotiaBank Centre.
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