Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Gone were the hot-shooting three point snipers.
Absent was that familiar fourth-quarter veteran charge.
Lost was the battle and intensity that allowed the MacEwan Griffins to handle the Saskatchewan Huskies with relative ease on Friday.
The result was a complete 180 in Saturday's Canada West men's basketball rematch as the visitors took it to the Griffins and earned a weekend split on an 82-67 result.
That snapped a modest two-game winning streak the Griffins had going as both teams now sit at 3-9 in the standings, two games shy of the 12th and final playoff spot.
"The result of what happened late is because of what we did early in the game," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz, whose team had the lead late in the third quarter before falling apart down the stretch amid a wash of missed shots, turnovers and a technical foul.
"We came out with no energy, we came out not focused on our game plan and we allowed Saskatchewan to get momentum," he continued. "Whenever you do that, teams are going to get confident and that's what happened down the stretch. When you're confident, shots go in as we saw the night before."
A night after trailing by 33 points in the first half to the Griffins, the Huskies came out with a much more concerted effort. Paced by leading scorer Lawrence Moore, who had 19 of his game-high 31 points in the first half, Saskatchewan grabbed a 36-28 lead at the break this time.
"We just thought we needed to play with a bit more pride than we did last night," said Saskatchewan head coach Barry Rawlyk. "Our program's got a proud tradition. We struggled a little bit this year and I just didn't think we were living up to our work ethic in certain areas.
"We had to come and grind it out here tonight. We're maybe less talented and we have to come forward with our work ethic. Those guys responded well tonight for us."
Moore finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals to his scoring totals as he gave the Griffins fits all night.
"Lawrence is very tough, very good when he can stay focused and not allow things to take him off track a little bit – a missed call here, or whatever it may be," said Rawlyk. "I thought he maintained his focus at both ends of the floor a lot better tonight. He's a very productive player when he remains focused."
MacEwan looked like a different team at the offensive end of the floor. A night after shooting 59.3 per cent from beyond the arc, including an otherworldly 12-for-17 in the first half, the Griffins shot just 26.1 per cent. Even worse, they tried to force threes in an opening half of staying on the perimeter instead of penetrating the lane.
"Us not being physical, us not being mentally tough," said Magdanz of their early play that saw them get to the free throw line just twice in the first 20 minutes. "We settled for a lot of threes that to Sask's credit they did a great job of contesting and we didn't look to create great shots for our teammates.
"It's a disappointing one for us from an execution standpoint."
On Friday, when Saskatchewan rallied to make a game out of it, MacEwan had another gear, pulling away down the stretch. On Saturday, it was the Huskies, instead, who bore down, moved the ball and buried their chances.
"Earlier in the quarter we started to turn the ball over a bit more," said Rawlyk. "We just said 'look, we've got to value the ball a little better.' They're creating some turnovers and getting some runouts on us, so possessing the basketball and getting a quality shot every time became important to us.
"We just internalized that and were able to cut down on the turnovers."
Emmanuel Akintunde added 14 points for the Huskies, while Alex Unruh had 12 points and eight assists, and Joseph Barker chipped in eight points and 15 rebounds.
MacEwan was again led by Ali Raza, who bucketed 19 points and added eight rebounds, while Adonis Monfort-Palomino had 12 points, eight boards and seven assists.
MacEwan next hosts Mount Royal University (6-6) on Jan. 12-13, while Saskatchewan heads out on a road trip to Kelowna, B.C. to face UBC-Okanagan (2-9) on the same dates.