Cougars clinch playoff spot with thrilling win over TRU

Cougars clinch playoff spot with thrilling win over TRU

University of Regina Sports Information

REGINA, Sask. - The University of Regina's men's basketball team clinched a postseason berth after holding off Thompson Rivers for a 79-74 win on Saturday night in an action-packed Canada West game at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.

The win puts the Cougars (9-11) into the postseason for the second consecutive season. They're expected to get a 12-seed from Canada West and head east next weekend to square off with No. 5-seeded Manitoba in a best-of-three play-in series.
 
And despite being swept by the Cougars this weekend, the news isn't all bad for Thompson Rivers. The WolfPack (8-12) clinched a trip to the playoffs when Calgary put the finishing touches on a home win over MacEwan, as TRU wins a head-to-head tiebreaker with Mount Royal for the final postseason spot based on record against common opponents. TRU is expected to be seeded ninth and travel to either Brandon or Winnipeg depending on the result of Sunday's game between Lethbridge and Alberta.

Saturday's game was a barnburner which saw the two teams trade lead 15 times throughout the game, but it was a 7-0 run by the Cougars late in the game that put them into the lead for good. Thompson Rivers made it a one-possession game on two separate occasions in the final minute, but a key intentional foul called with just under 20 seconds remaining gave the U of R two free throws and the ball back.

TRU had one last chance for a shot to tie, but Trent Monkman had the ball knocked away from behind by Brian Ofori as he brought the ball into Regina territory and Travis Sylvestre ended up with the ball, sealing the win for the Cougars.

Ofori had yet another strong game for the Cougars, scoring a game-high 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting and also pulling down a team-leading eight rebounds. Johneil Johnson added 17 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench, while Alex Igual finished with 16 points.

Volodymyr Iegorov led Thompson Rivers in both points and rebounds, finishing with 16 and 12 for a double-double. Monkman had 13 off the bench for the WolfPack, while Derek Rhodes and Mike Rouault both chipped in with 11. Luke Morris added nine points and 11 rebounds and – like Iegorov – played 39 of 40 minutes in the game.

Neither team held a double-digit lead at any point during Saturday's contest as Regina and TRU battled back and forth all night long. The first quarter featured eight of the game's 15 lead changes before Thompson Rivers went on a 9-2 run, and the WolfPack led for the remainder of the first half with a brief exception when a Johnson bucket for Regina brought the teams level at 20-20 at the end of the opening period.

The WolfPack opened up their largest lead of the game after a quick 7-0 spurt past the midway mark of the second quarter put them up 34-26. The visitors led 39-35 at halftime and got the lead back up to eight on three separate occasions in the third, but Regina dug down and took its first lead since the first quarter after reeling off a 13-4 run that featured three-pointers by Benjamin Hillis, Igual, and Johnson.

The teams traded leads seven times in the fourth quarter, including when the Cougars went on an 11-2 run that was capped by Ofori buckets on back-to-back-to-back possessions that put the U of R up by five just past the five-minute mark of the period. TRU responded with triples by Rhodes and Monkman as part of an 8-0 run of its own, but that's when the Cougars reeled off seven straight points to take the lead for good.