Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - The top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears sent a message to the conference on Friday night, as they crushed the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns 109-66 in Game 1 of their best-of-three semifinal series at Saville Community Sports Centre.
The Bears, led by a game-high 23 points from Austin Waddoups, took a commanding 29-12 lead after the first quarter, cruising to the series-opening win. Fellow conference all-stars Mamadou Gueye (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Brody Clarke (12 points, five rebounds, five assists), also turned in strong performances for Alberta on Friday. Ivan Ikomey also chipped in 19 points off the bench in just 22 minutes, as Alberta shot an astounding 58.6% from the floor.
By comparison, Lethbridge managed just 66 points on 23/62 (37.1%) shooting against the conference's top defensive team. Brett Warren led the 'Horns with 14 points, while DeJon Burdeaux added 13 points in 18 minutes, and Kyle Peterson chipped in with 11.
From the opening tip-off, the Pronghorns couldn't keep pace with the Alberta offence, falling into an early hole in the opening quarter. Alberta shot nearly 60% in the first half, compared to just 39% for the visiting 'Horns. One of the better rebounding teams in the conference, Alberta also had their way on the glass, dominating Lethbridge 47-26, while adding 14 second-chance points in the blowout.
Alberta jumped ahead 29-12 after one quarter, and 58-32 at the half, in one of their most dominating 20 minutes this season.
Trying to dig themselves out of a massive hole in the second, the Pronghorns were completely shredded in the third quarter, allowing 38 Alberta points, to just 15 from Lethbridge. Alberta's starters combined for 54 points on 22/40 shooting on the night, including going 7/15 from beyond the arc. Waddoups' performance was arguably his best as a Bear, as he torched Lethbridge going 9/12, incluidng 5/7 from deep, scoring 23 points in just 18 minutes.
The win was the third-straight by more than 30 for Alberta in the playoffs, who cruised past the UNBC Timberwolves in last weekend's quarter-final series.
Game 2 of the conference semifinal goes tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. at the Saville Centre, with a potential Game 3 scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.