Just as it looked like it was catching fire, the U of M Bisons men’s basketball team fizzled out in the playoffs.
After a historic season, the Bisons looked poised to challenge for a national championship. Instead, the club made it as far as the Canada West playoff semifinals and came home heartbroken.
There’s domination, and then there’s what the Bisons did to the University of Victoria Vikes in the Canada West men’s basketball quarter-finals. With an 81-61 drubbing of the Vikes, U of M punched its ticket to the semifinals.
The Bisons got to work early Saturday, up 5-4 in the first quarter, a Rashawn Browne three-pointer kicked off a 17-point run to put U of V in a 22-4 hole. Both sides put up four points apiece to close the quarter 26-8 Bisons.
The Vikes responded in the second quarter, outscoring the herd 19-12 to enter halftime down 38-27.
Coming out of the break U of M started to push back. Cameron O’Hara got a layup to fall seconds into the third quarter, starting an 11-2 run for the herd to take a 20-point lead. The sides traded buckets until U of V gave a push of its own.
A Scott Kellum layup provided a spark that caught fire for the Vikes, and the club went on a 14-1 run over the herd to close the third quarter with momentum, but down 55-47. In the fourth quarter, the U of M put the game away. After Browne and Andre Arruda each drained a three, the Bisons took control in the key, scoring 14 of its 26 fourth-quarter points from the paint. This matched the 14 points the Vikes scored the entire fourth quarter, as U of M cruised to the 81-61 win.
The win sent the Bisons to the semifinals Sunday, when the club had to face the host University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Following Saturday’s dominant win, the herd looked like it was headed to nationals for the next chapter in a storybook season, but alas the dream died in a 91-85 overtime loss to the Golden Bears on Sunday.
Coming out of the halftime break at 41-40 for the Bisons, U of A looked to make its move in the third quarter.
With under six minutes to go in the quarter, Ivan Ikomey got a three-pointer to fall and tied things up at 47-47. Arruda and Browne re-established the Bisons lead at 51-47, but a quick seven-point run by the Golden Bears got the club out front at 54-51.
The teams traded chances the rest of the way and U of A held a slight 61-57 edge entering the fourth quarter — where the U of M made its move.
With 1:41 to play, a Brody Clarke free throw gave U of A a 70-68 lead Arruda responded with a layup and with 20 seconds on the clock Keiran Zziwa drained a jumper for a 72-70 Bisons lead. Clarke made a game-saving jumper with eight seconds on the clock to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra frame, the Golden Bears broke all Manitoba hearts.
After Browne gave U of M a 75-72 lead early, Adam Paige sank a three to tie the game and kick off a 10-point Golden Bears run for an 82-75 lead. From there, U of A responded to every point the Bisons could snag and took home the win, ending the U of M’s season.