Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Honed through battles fought at the highest levels against top Canadian and American men's basketball competition, the University of Calgary Dinos put forth an intensity the MacEwan Griffins were unable to match in a 102-66 victory on Saturday night.
Their defending national championship pedigree on full display early, the Dinos created multiple open looks, easy fast break buckets and generally made life difficult on defence for the Griffins, who have yet to win this Canada West season, falling to 0-14 after a weekend sweep.
"I think we have a defensive presence that's maybe a bit different than what they're used to playing against regularly and I think our guys showed that early on," said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren after his team improved their conference-leading record to 16-0. "Our issue is doing that consistently for 40 minutes.
"We've had the chance over the past few years with some of our veteran guys to play some very good basketball teams, whether it's here in our conference or in other conferences and even at the Division 1 level," he added. "They've learned a new level of intensity that's required in order to be successful in order to beat some of the better teams out east or beat some of the better teams in our conference. We need to continue to do that."
Conversely, for the Griffins, it's a learning experience they aim to take to heart as the program builds towards the future.
"The execution at a national championship level … this was a fabulous experience for us," said interim head coach Ken Schildroth. "Calgary are on a mission to win a national championship. We're trying to win a game.
"We're growing. The intensity level and conditioning that Calgary brought is where we need to be by the end of this season, next year and the following year."
Third-year 6-foot-8 forward Brett Layton brought the most for the visitors with a truly monster game in the paint as he produced 27 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for his sixth double double of the season.
"He's been tremendous for us all year," said Vanhooren. "I think he's shown he's got All-Conference capability, for sure.
"He does so many things for us even outside of the scoring. He gives us a threat in the lane, that opens up the floor for our perimeter, which is usually significant offensively, as well. I think we have a pretty good balance on offence because we have him in there."
That inside-outside game was working for the Dinos as Lucas Mannes poured in 22 points off the bench on 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range. Mambi Diawara added 11 points in 19 minutes of work.
"Lucas got a lot of really good open looks and I think a lot of that comes from the penetration and some of the help they have to bring on Brett," said Vanhooren. "Lucas works really hard, so it was nice to see him shooting the ball well this weekend. It was really useful for us."
MacEwan was led by Abdullah Shittu, who had 12 points, seven boards, two assists, two steals and a block, while Atlas St. Paul Butler hit double digits for a second-straight night, scoring 11 with seven rebounds off the bench. Dustin Gatzki added 10 points to the effort.
"I think we showed tremendous work ethic again and demonstrated a lot of character," said Schildroth. "Some players grew as players today and as people as they fought through adversity and that level of play. I think we're starting to get comfortable with one another.
"I think we can take away a lot about the mental toughness that's required to get to the next level," he added. "I think we grew as a team today. Some players stepped up into new roles and new confidences. We've just got to get our turnovers down and know our systems better. The attack points and positioning offensively and defensively is the next phase we have to go through."
The Griffins cut their turnovers down from a night earlier (27-18), but dramatically lost the rebounding battle (42-23) and didn't shoot as well as the Dinos, who drained shots at a 55.7 per cent clip compared to MacEwan's 39 per cent rate.
The Dinos head into a bye week before travelling to Abbotsford, B.C. to face UFV on Jan. 25-26, while the Griffins are in action Jan. 18-19 in Kelowna, B.C. against the UBC-Okanagan Heat.