LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western men’s basketball team hosts Alberta this Friday and Saturday in its home opening weekend at the Langley Events Centre.
The Spartans are coming off a road weekend in which they dropped both of their games against Manitoba.
Friday’s game is at 8 p.m. and Saturday’s is at 7 p.m. and both games can be seen live on www.canadawest.tv.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (0-2)
CIS ranking: NR
Pioneers Division Standings: 7th (tied)
Last weekend: Manitoba 84-56 L, 96-78 L
Streak: 2 losses
2013-14 Canada West Record: 10-12 (5th in Pacific Division)
2013-14 Canada West Tournament: N/A
2013-14 CIS Tournament: N/A
Opening the season on the road, the Spartans struggled early on both nights against the Bisons and never recovered. However, after a 28-point loss Friday, the team closed the gap to 18 points on Saturday and will look to stop their early season slump this weekend against visiting Alberta.
The last time the Spartans played Alberta, they lost 87-75 in Edmonton. However, the last time TWU hosted the Bears, it was the Spartans upsetting then No. 6 Alberta 90-85 on Jan. 11, 2013.
The Spartans started slow in both games this weekend and, against a strong Manitoba group, there was no coming back. On Friday, the Spartans trailed 18-12 after the first quarter and 37-21 at halftime. The following night, TWU was down 22-12 after the first quarter. Against Alberta, which is coming off a convincing win over Saskatchewan, the Spartans can’t afford to fall behind early.
IMPROVING THEIR PERCENTAGES
After a tough weekend shooting the ball, the Spartans will look to improve their field goal shooting, which was just 36.9 per cent over their first two games. From 3-point range, the Spartans also struggled, hitting just 25.0 per cent of their shots. Defensively, TWU allowed the Bisons to shoot 50.4 per cent from the field and 47.2 per cent from 3-point range.
BIGS LEADING THE WAY
Through the first weekend, it was the Spartans big men leading the offence as Jesse Jeffers averaged 14.5 points per game and Denny McDonald averaged 11. 5 points per game. Jeffers had a career-high 24 points in Saturday’s game and was 10 for 13 from the field. McDonald had 15 points on Saturday and was five for five from the free throw line.
ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS (1-1)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 5th (tied)
Last weekend: Saskatchewan 72-60 L, 77-63 W
Streak: 1 win
2013-14 Regular Season Record: 20-2 (1st in Prairie Division)
2013-14 Canada West Tournament: 4-1 (1st)
2013-14 CIS Tournament: 2-1 (3rd)
The Bears are the defending Canada West champions and CIS bronze medallists and this year, they are expected to once again compete for the conference title.
However, coach Barnaby Craddock’s team comes into the 2014-15 season without a few key pieces from last year’s squad including Jordan Baker, who graduated from the program as the all-time leader in points, rebounds, steals, and assists, as well as Rob Dewar, Sahr Saffa and Todd Bergen-Henengouwen.
Despite those losses, the team still have plenty of talent and proved as much by beating then No. 8 Saskatchewan last Saturday.
FORMER CASCADE CRUISING
The last time Joel Friesen played at the Langley Events Centre, he was a member of the Fraser Valley Cascades. That was in 2011-2012. Now, nearly three years later and having transferred to Alberta, he returns to the LEC as the Bears leading scorer. Friesen averaged 20.5 points per game this past weekend, including 27 points and 58.8 per cent shooting from the field in Alberta’s win on Saturday.
Through the first weekend of the season, the Bears group of four of Youssef Ouahrig, Mamadou Gueye, Kenneth Otieno and Friesen have already proven to be an impressive offensive quartet. All four averaged double-digit point totals on the weekend, with Ouahrig averaging 15.5, Gueye 14.0 and Otieno 10.5. In Friday’s game, Ouahrig led the team with 17 points while Friesen’s 27 points was a team-high on Saturday.
TURNING IT OVER
While Alberta got the split against Saskatchewan, the Bears did so while committing 21.5 turnovers per game. In Friday’s loss they turned the ball over 24 times and even in Saturday’s win they turned it over 19 times. Ouahrig averaged 4.5 turnovers per game while Friesen averaged 4.0 turnovers per game.