By Ben Matchett; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – Thomas Cooper captured his second straight Canada West men's basketball scoring crown with a 32-point performance in a 95-87 win over the MacEwan Griffins on the night the University of Calgary Dinos celebrated their graduating seniors.
Cooper, the 2015-16 conference MVP, was joined by Dallas Karch and Jasdeep Gill in a pre-game ceremony where they were honoured by Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren ahead of the final regular season home game of their careers – and the trio combined for 44 of the Dinos' 95 points on the night.
After getting blown out in the teams' first-ever meeting Friday, the Griffins came to play Saturday, knowing their playoff lives were on the line. They held the Dinos close for the first quarter and owned the advantage in the second, taking a 38-38 tie into halftime. Calgary pulled away early in the third quarter, then fended off the charging Griffins in a wild, 60-point fourth as the Dinos held a 31-29 edge.
Both teams shot the ball well, with the Griffins up over 43 per cent, including 9-for-26 from beyond the arc. The visitors cashed two more treys than did the home side, keeping the Dinos within reach.
"We played with a lack of inspired effort for a good amount of the first half," said Vanhooren, "but even in the third we still gave up three or four threes to actions we shouldn't give up a three-ball too, and we didn't solve some of the issues that we're having on the floor. We need to do a better job of that going into the playoffs."
Thadius Galvez finished the night with 30 points, including 11 of MacEwan's 17 free throw attempts. Three other Griffins ended up in double figures, with Denzel James scoring 19 – along with a team-high eight rebounds – while Keith Gerdes added 16 and Tyler Wise chipped in with 13 points.
Cooper finishes the season with 453 points, the best total in the nation to this point, after his 32-point, 10-rebound double-double, including an impressive 16 trips to the free throw line. Jhony Verrone had an impactful night for the Dinos as well, chipping in 20 points and eight rebounds, while David Kapinga (14) and Karch (11) also reached double figures.
With the loss, MacEwan falls to 7-13 and will miss the Canada West playoffs. Calgary, meanwhile, improves to 16-4 on the year and will enjoy a bye before hosting a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final beginning Thursday, Feb. 17 in the Jack Simpson Gym.
"We lost three games by a shot, so it's hard to be disappointed with what our guys did looking back on the year," said Vanhooren. "I'm pleased with our guys, and I'm confident we'll ramp it up for the playoffs and peak at the right time. We'll wait and see what our match-up is going to be, and go from there."
The Dinos, who will finish either first or second in the Canada West RPI playoff seedings, will enjoy a bye through the first round next week and will await their quarter-final opponent. The top two teams from the Canada West Final Four will advance to the U SPORTS Final 8 in early March in Halifax.
Photo by David Moll