On Friday Dec. 30, the University of Manitoba men’s basketball team defeated the #8-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears 86-78, capturing the 50th annual Wesmen Classic Championship. With the win, the Bisons successfully defended their 2015 tournament win, and have now won nine total Wesmen Classic Championships (1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1985, 1986, 1991, 2015, and 2016).
Manitoba began their Wesmen Classic run on Wednesday, as they defeated the University of Regina Cougars 100-79. The Bisons shot the ball well, hitting 55.9 per cent of the shots they took in the game, and were able to hold the Cougars to just 34.6 percent from the field. With the lopsided shooting percentages, the herd took an early 50-35 lead into halftime. Manitoba continued their dominance in the third frame, outscoring Regina 32-20, increasing their lead to 27 points, and they never looked back.
The Bisons were able to spread the ball out in their first game of the tournament, as Joey Nitychoruk led the herd in scoring with 21 points, Justus Alleyn netted another 15, and both Ilarion Bonhomme and James Wagner added 12 more points. The Cougars were led by Samuel Hillis, who was able to knock down 19 points for his squad.
The Bisons advanced to the championship match with their 60-55 victory over the host Wesmen on Thursday. Both sides struggled to shoot the ball for the majority of the game, as both teams connected on just over 25 per cent of their shots. Manitoba took a 32-24 lead into halftime, with Winnipeg struggling just a little more in the first half. The Wesmen held the Bisons to just 13 points in the third frame and trailed just 45-42 entering the final quarter. However, the herd held the Wesmen off and went on to win the game.
Omoerah set a tournament single-game record, as he grabbed 25 rebounds in the contest; he also led the Bisons with 17 points. AJ Basi put up another 14 points for Manitoba, and Narcisse Ambanza led the Wesmen with 15 points in the game.
The first half of the championship game featured a lot of back and forth play, with the herd taking a 40-37 lead into halftime. The herd was also more successful from beyond the arc, hitting nine three-point shots compared to Alberta’s six. With the upper hand in shooting, the Bisons were able to extend their lead, and defeated Alberta 86-78.
Justus Alleyn led the Bisons with 22 points in the game, and Ilarion Bonhomme netted another 15, helping the herd win the game. Omoerah also came up big, posting a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Alberta was able to keep the game close, thanks in large part to Brody Clarke, as he led his team with 21 points.
Omoerah was named tournament MVP and set a Wesmen Classic record of 45 rebounds, a record previously held by the University of Winnipeg’s , who came up with 42 rebounds in 1991. Nitychoruk also had a stellar tournament, and was the lone Bison named to the Wesmen Classic All-Star team.
The Bisons won their last two games before the winter break, and went 3-0 during their Wesmen Classic run. Now with five straight wins, Manitoba will look to carry their momentum into the second half of Canada West division play.