Kellen Taniguchi, Manitoba Bisons Sports Information
WINNIPEG – The University of Manitoba Bison men's basketball team finished the regular season with an intense 71-68 victory over the Mount Royal University Cougars at the Investors Group Athletic Centre on Saturday, February 11.
With the win Manitoba finishes the regular season with a record of 12-8, and have won 10 of their last 12 conference games, while Mount Royal drops to 8-12 in conference play.
"They were playing for their playoff lives" said Bisons head coach Kirby Schepp. "It was great because it was a playoff intensity game, and that's kind of what we need to happen."
This was the final regular season home game for the Bisons, and their five graduating players (AJ Basi, Keith Omoerah, Ilarion Bonhomme, Brett Jewell, and Jonathan Alexander) were honoured pre-game.
"Special night" said Schepp. "It's just nice to have a special night for those guys and to be able to recognize them."
AJ Basi opened the game with a three-pointer, but the Cougars responded with an 8-0 run. Jonathan Alexander got the last basket in the frame, with a monster dunk that cut the lead to 16-13 and energized the crowd. Mount Royal was able to steal the ball four times, and hold the Bisons to just 26.3 per cent from the field in the opening quarter.
Jonathan Alexander hit the first two shots of the second quarter, giving the home side an 18-17 lead early on. With the score tied at 20, the Bisons put together a 12-0 run to extend the lead to 32-20. The teams exchanged a couple looks late in the frame, with Manitoba taking a 34-25 lead into the half. Manitoba's defense held the Cougars to just nine points in the frame, and Justus Alleyn led the way for the Herd with all of his eight first half points coming in the second quarter.
The third quarter opened with a successful three-point shot from AJ Basi, extending the Bison lead to 12. The teams were back-and-forth to start the frame, with the home team leading 46-36, before the visitors went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to two points. Alleyn ended the Cougar run with a three-pointer, and Malik Irwin converted a three at the buzzer to put Manitoba up 56-50 entering the final quarter of play. Josh Ross netted eight points for the visitors in the frame, helping to cut into the lead.
Mount Royal came out firing and outscored the home team 9-2 early on, to take a 59-58 lead. Justus Alleyn responded with a three-point shot, and a jump shot to put the Bisons back on top by four. The visitors answered and tied the game at 63, before Basi and Joey Nitychoruk hit jumpers to regain a four-point lead. The Cougars took a late 68-67 lead, with Keith Omoerah answering with a layup. The Bisons defense forced a turnover on the next play, and Brett Jewell hit a mid-range shot to put Manitoba up 71-68 late, and they would hold on for the victory.
The Bisons will host a play-in series running from February 16-18 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre; tip-off for all games will be at 7:30 p.m. CT. Mount Royal will await results of other matches to learn their playoff fate.