Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — Twenty-five forced turnovers from the Manitoba Bisons were the story on Friday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre, as they topped the Mount Royal Cougars 103-80 in their home opener.
Guard Keziah Brothers played a big role with two blocks while forward Claire Harvey had three steals.
"The forced turnover thing is a tempo thing we're trying to get," said Bisons head coach Michele Sung post-game.
"Right now we're talking about playing 80 minutes instead of 40, so I think we're hopefully going to see the pace we play with pay off tomorrow, so that's a big one."
The first quarter featured a frenzied pace, with both squads stretching the floor effectively.
Manitoba took control with the game tied at six, going on a 10-2 run three minutes into the contest. Nine of those points came from Taylor Randall, who got it going from beyond the arc as well as inside.
Harvey also played a big role in the opening ten minutes for the Bisons, with two points, two assists, two blocks and two steals as the hosts led 26-19 after one.
The Cougars stepped up on the defensive end of the floor towards the end of the first and carried their momentum into the second quarter. Forward Charity Marlatt was a leading force in the post, tallying a team-leading ten first half points as Mount Royal was able to cut the Bisons lead to as little as three at 37-34 with three minutes to play.
The final three minutes of were controlled by Manitoba however. They forced a few critical turnovers, including a steal from guard Nicole Konieczky — who had seven points in the frame while shooting 5-of-10 from the field — as the Bisons entered halftime up 50-38.
Mount Royal upped their defensive play to begin the third quarter, after losing the turnover battle 14-5 in the first half. The visitors went on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes, with guards Maria Blanco and Maddison Hooper playing a huge factor.
Blanco had a key steal as well as a key field goal, while Hooper — who had six points and four rebounds in the first half — registered a key three-pointer as well as a steal.
Randall and forward Emma Thompson — who had three of the team's four treys after three — got Manitoba's groove back though, as the Bisons re-opened a ten point lead over the next few minutes.
The Cougars kept pace, getting the score to as close as five before Konieczny got hot again, scoring eight points in the frame as the hosts entered the fourth up 76-66.
Mount Royal got the game back to within five four minutes into the final quarter, but that's when Harvey took over. She registered a huge block and rebound on the other end of the floor which helped spark a 23-5 run for the Bisons in the final six minutes of play to seal the deal.
Randall led all scorers with 25 points, while Marlatt had 18 for Mount Royal.
With the win, Manitoba advances to 3-0 while the Cougars fall to 0-3. Both teams are back in action tomorrow at 5 p.m., looking to end the weekend strong.