Danielle Doiron, Manitoba Bisons Sports Information
WINNIPEG – It came down to the wire Friday night, as the University of Manitoba Bison men's basketball team beat the Mount Royal University Cougars 72-71 at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
With the win, Manitoba breaks a two-game loss streak and improves to 11-8 this season. Mount Royal falls to 8-11 with their second loss in a row. The Bisons have already clinched a playoff spot in the Canada West division.
Mount Royal's Brett Layton led both squads with 17 points, while Manitoba's Justus Alleyn had 16.
Three Bisons led the way in the first quarter. Ilarion Bonhomme and Alleyn each put up eight points, and Keith Omoerah netted five to help the home side jump out to a 27-14 lead. Glen Yang, meanwhile, posted four points and three rebounds for the Cougars.
Both teams hit a quick scoring drought early in the second, with neither side scoring for almost two minutes. After Manitoba's Joey Nitychoruk broke up with stretch with a free throw, the Cougars took off. Josh Ross sunk two three-pointers and another jumper, while the Mount Royal defence held the Bisons to only eight more points for the rest of the quarter. Manitoba finished the half up 39-29.
The Cougars looked like a completely different team in the third. The visitors scored a dozen points in the first minutes of the half, bringing the game within one after Layton sunk a free throw and then tying and taking the lead when Ross made two soon after. The Bisons meanwhile, struggled, turning the ball over nine times in the quarter alone. But James Wagner shone in the final minutes of the third, sinking three jump shots and three free throws to keep the home side alive. Omoerah added a basket, and the Bisons closed out the third up 54-52.
The teams traded the lead throughout an intense, hard-fought fourth. Layton tied the game at 71 with a dunk in the final two minutes of play. The Bisons and Cougars battled, but neither team could sink a shot. In the last seconds of the game, Ryan Cunningham fouled on Alleyn. The Bison captain made his first attempt, and Manitoba took the game 72-71.
The two-game weekend set continues on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Investors Group Athletic Centre.