By Jack Pengelly; Dinos Communications
CALGARY - The fifth-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears jumped out to a hot start and fended off the second-ranked University of Calgary Dinos Thursday night, taking the front end of their weekend home-and-home series with a 92-79 victory in the Jack Simpson Gym.
The Golden Bears snatched four offensive rebounds before finding Austin Waddoups for a corner three on their first possession of the game, epitomizing the night that was to come. Opening the game on a 10-0 run, the Golden Bears were able to set the tone in an important matchup atop the Canada West standings.
"Our rivalry with the Dinos is incredible. We are always ready for the game. We got a little bit of a step in the first half today and it really propelled us the rest of the game" said Golden Bear forward Brody Clarke.
The No. 2 Dinos and No. 5 Golden Bears shared a 9-1 record entering the game, with the Dinos holding the higher seed due to their strength of schedule.
Calgary's Connor Foreman opened the first quarter with four blocks, but was forced to sit much of the game due to foul trouble. That paved the way for Brody Clarke and the rest of the Alberta frontcourt to impose their presence on the inside. Clarke finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Alberta finished the game plus-10 on the glass. The small-ball lineups that have fueled the Dinos' second unit throughout the season struggled against the balanced Golden Bear attack, and at halftime Alberta had four players with more than eight points apiece.
Nearing the midway point of the second quarter it appeared as if Calgary was poised to tie the game on the back of a patented Mambi Diawara run. Diawara scored nine consecutive points for the Dinos to cut the deficit to seven, however contrary to the rest of the season Alberta survived that run, and maintained a six-point advantage at the break. Diawara finished the half with 17 points, but was quiet the rest of the way. With six minutes to play in the third quarter Diawara earned a technical foul and rode the bench for the remainder of the night.
Midway through the fourth, the Dinos defence kept them within reach as the offence worked to get to the rim. The most ferocious run came with just over five minutes to play. Following a made basket Jhony Verrone stole the inbounds pass and laid it in to cut the lead to eight. On the ensuing possession, a David Kapinga steal led to a Verrone fast break where he attempted to throw done a thunderous dunk over fellow Québec native Mamadou Gueye. The dunk rattled out however, and the Golden Bears scored six unanswered to put the game out of reach.
"Just keep at it, they're going to make their runs, they're a good team… Just keep sustaining every time they push back" commented Brody Clarke.
For Clarke and the Golden Bears the focus stays the same as they return back to Edmonton to welcome the Dinos on Saturday, while the Dinos will look to return the favour at the Saville Community Sports Centre. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. MT, live on CanadaWest.tv.