Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – It's not often that a basketball game is essentially over in the first half, but the MacEwan Griffins found themselves in such a deep hole inside the opening 20 minutes that it was all but a foregone conclusion.
The Lethbridge Pronghorns built a 30-point half-time advantage and cruised to a dominant 98-65 win in Canada West men's basketball action on Saturday.
"For us, the ball didn't go into the hoop," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz, whose team suffered through ice-cold 18.2 per cent shooting in the opening quarter. "We got some great looks early and we just couldn't hit shots.
"Unfortunately, that hurt our mindset and it hurt our mindset where we let down defensively. It just sort of spiraled from there."
When you have a young team like the Griffins do – with eight players in their first-year of eligibility – things can spiral. And they did quickly on Saturday.
MacEwan was down 23-10 after the first quarter and 32-13 at 7:14 of the second when Lethbridge's Zac Overwater drained a three-pointer. Awak Piom hit the final jump shot of the half for the Pronghorns as they took a 53-23 lead into the break.
Despite a big lead, Pronghorns head coach Mike Hansen essentially told his players to keep pressing.
"We have so many new kids this year," he said. "We've got two freshmen and two second-year kids in the rotation. And then we've got Kyle Peterson, who hasn't played in three years, and Saren Westrop has been down in the States. I just said to them we know we're not the team we want to be come February, so that's got to be our focus.
"It's not what the score is, it's are we getting better every possession?"
Things did get even better for the Pronghorns, who pushed the lead to 43 at one point in the third-quarter, and won by 33 to earn the weekend sweep and improve to 4-0 on the season.
One of few positives for the Griffins was the fact they held Lethbridge leading scorer DeJon Burdeaux to eight points after he scored 33 points on them Friday. However, all that accomplished was forcing Lethbridge to show off its depth as five Pronghorns hit double digits in points.
Overwater led the Horns with a double-double, recording 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Westrop had 17 points, Peterson chipped in 15 and both Piom and Colton Gibb scored 12.
"I thought there were two keys tonight," said Hansen. "One, they did a better job of just really trying to get up. They hard-hedged and switched on those screens, trying to keep Burdeaux in a box. I thought he did a good job of not forcing it and finding his teammates and moving the ball.
"I thought defensively we came out with a lot more energy tonight and that was the key. We just got stops early on."
Added Magdanz: "They're a talented team. If you're going to put a lot of time and energy into taking away one guy, they have players around him that can really hurt you as well. It's the tough part about playing Lethbridge, but I think it was more about us today."
Rookie Liban Yousef put in 15 solid minutes off the bench to lead the Griffins with 11 points. Starter Jake Notice just missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards.
"For us, this was a learning opportunity," said Magdanz. "We're going to have to continue to grow as a team over the course of this year. Liban's a guy who's done that over the start. It was nice to see him get an opportunity to shine. He plays with energy, he plays with effort, he tries to be aggressive.
"It's just working out the finer points of the game for all of us."
The Griffins (1-3) will head out on the road next with a visit to Manitoba on Nov. 10-11, while the Pronghorns have a home-and-home series with Mount Royal University on Nov. 9 at home and Nov. 11 in Calgary.