The University of Manitoba Bisons men’s basketball team kicked off their regular season on the road this past weekend, looking to accomplish two things. The first was to knock off a top-10 nationally ranked team, in Saskatchewan. The second and more substantial goal was to defeat the Huskies for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Both feats were fulfilled as Manitoba won a 91-88 last-second thriller on Friday night, before falling 77-70 in the rematch on Saturday.
The opening game of the weekend was a wildly entertaining contest that saw 14 different lead changes.
The Huskies looked to have the game wrapped up after a three-ball from forward Trevor Severinski gave the home side an 88-85 lead with just 55 seconds left, however Bisons guard AJ Basi wouldn’t be denied, swishing two shots from beyond arc in the final 43 seconds to steal the win for Manitoba.
The game winner occurred with only one second left on the clock, as Basi took an inbound pass from point guard Ilarion Bonhomme II and executed a perfect fadeaway shot. The co-captain for Manitoba finished the game with 22 points.
The Huskies led 24-18 after the first 10 minutes, thanks largely in part to lights-out three-point shooting – going 4 of 8 from the perimeter.
The herd would respond in the second quarter, taking a 47-44 lead into the break on the strength of a well-rounded team performance highlighted by 13 points from Basi, as well as four assists and rebounds from swingman Keith Omoerah.
Manitoba opened up a 14-point lead immediately following halftime only to have the Huskies go on a 15-1 run to tie the game. Jauquin Bennett-Boire was the catalyst for Saskatchewan, scoring eight points in the third and giving his team back the lead with 1:21 left in the quarter. Heading into the final frame, the home side were on top 69-65.
The fourth quarter turned into the Bonhomme II show, as he contributed 11 of his 15 points in the last 10 minutes, making the score 81-72 for Manitoba with just over five minutes left.
The Huskies kept pace, though, going on a 13-4 run over four minutes to tie things up with a minute left. That’s when Basi and Severinski started raining treys, with Basi getting the last laugh and the victory for his squad.
The rematch was a tale of two halves, with both units stepping up defensively after Friday’s offensive outburst.
The Bisons would lead 27-17 after one and 45-37 at the break, thanks in large part to their job on the glass, where they had 18 defensive rebounds compared to Saskatchewan’s 12 over the first 20 minutes.
Forward Wyatt Anders was spectacular during that time – frequently posting up, while recording 10 boards and limiting the Huskies’ abilities for second-chance points in the paint.
Offensively, Basi and Omoerah combined for 26 of Manitoba’s 45 first-half points, with 15 and 11 respectively. Their combined shooting percentage was also impressive, at 69 per cent.
The second half was an entirely different story, as Saskatchewan guard Shawn Lathan kept Anders at bay and the entire Huskies defence stiffened up – specifically reducing the impact of Basi and Omoerah.
Just eight combined points (five by Manitoba, three by Saskatchewan) were scored in the first five minutes of the third, but by the end of the quarter the Bisons’ lead had been trimmed to four.
Free throw shooting was Manitoba’s Achilles heel in the fourth, as the team left numerous points off the board due to their inability to capitalize from the charity stripe. Overall, the herd shot just 52 per cent at the line and couldn’t close out the victory.
Saskatchewan would take their first lead of the game (71-70) with 2:11 left and wouldn’t relinquish it – outscoring the visitors 21-10 in the final frame en route to the win.
Weekend at a glance
Manitoba’s co-captains were nothing short of spectacular to start the season.
Anders had a double-double on both Friday and Saturday, picking up 15 points and 10 rebounds in the opener and 10 points to go with 15 rebounds in the rematch, while Basi was a sparkplug offensively all weekend with 42 points over the two games. Both players also logged over 30 minutes both nights.
Next up for the herd is their home opener this weekend, as they take on Calgary – looking to gain some revenge on the team that knocked them out of the post-season in 2014-15.