Zachary Worden, Cougars Athletics
CALGARY, Alta – The first game of the Crowchild Classic between the Mount Royal University Cougars and University of Calgary Dinos tipped off Thursday night at Kenyon Court. Both teams come into the new year with high aspirations. The #3 ranked Dinos are looking to get repeat last season's national championship, while the Cougars are looking to build momentum and climb up the Canada West standings.
After a tightly contested first three quarters, the Dinos exploded in the fourth. They came away with an 80-61 victory, scoring 28 of their points in the last 10 minutes. Former Cougar Brett Layton was the main focus of the UofC offense. He scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots. Mambi Diawara and Mason Foreman both added 15 points impacting the game on the offensive end.
Mount Royal's offense ran through Glen Yang all game. He scored 25 points and made 11 of his 22 shot attempts. Samuel Willis III was the other main source of offense for the Cougars. He added 15 points of his own, knocking down shots from the midrange. Layton was a force inside early as the UofC offense looked to get him touches against his former team.
The two teams traded runs to start the first quarter. The Dinos broke out to an early 9-2 lead, but the Cougars responded with a run of their own and got themselves back into the game.
Both teams looked to score from behind the three-point line in the first 10 minutes, combining for 18 three-point attempts. Despite the high volume of shots, each team only knocked down one three in the quarter.
The defensive battle continued into the second quarter. Neither team could find a groove on the offensive end and couldn't find the bottom of the net on their shot attempts. Both teams kept the outside shots coming but still couldn't find a way to convert their shots from deep.
The Dinos took a 10-point lead into the halftime break, led by Layton and Diawara. Layton had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks through the first 20 minutes as he controlled the paint on both ends.
Mount Royal's first-half offense was driven by Yang who hit some tough shots on his way to 11 first-half points. Pelumi Ajayi chipped in on the offensive end through the first 20 minutes. He scored six points and made both of his field goal attempts and free-throws.
The two teams found some traction on the offensive end out of the break. Willis III was able to get to the free-throw line and knock down a couple mid-range jumpers, sparking the Cougars' offense as they cut into their deficit. They were able to cut the UofC lead down to five midway through the quarter, looking to knock off their undefeated cross-town rival.
The Dinos were able to gain a little separation after the Mount Royal run. Layton managed to grab an offensive rebound and put the ball in right before the buzzer sounded to grow their lead to nine heading into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter started with an 11-0 Dinos' run, as their offense came to life. They made each of their first seven shots in the quarter, growing their lead and keeping the Cougars' comeback attempt at bay.
In the end, the Dinos' fourth-quarter offense was too much for Mount Royal to overcome. They shot 81% in the fourth, knocking down 13 of their 16 shot attempts.
The second half of the home and home series will be played Saturday night at Jack Simpson Gymnasium. The game can be streamed live on www.canadawest.tv at 7:00 p.m. MDT.