By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications with files from Cougars Athletics
REGINA – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team started strongly but couldn’t get past the Regina Cougars on Feb. 6, losing 91-82 to give Regina the weekend sweep and fourth place in the Canada West Pioneer Division at 10-6. The Vikes drop to 7-11 and sit in seventh place with one final weekend remaining in their regular season.
Five different Vikes players hit double figures in the loss, led by fourth year Grant Sitton‘s 15 points. Second year Justin Kinnear added 13 points, while fifth year Mack Roth scored 12 and both Reiner Theil and Kai Greene scored 10. Theil added a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double.
The Cougars trailed by as many as 15 points, but came all the way back and Jonathan Tull led the way with a game-high 24 points in the win. Jonathan Tull also had six rebounds and four steals for the Cougars while Aaron McGowan led the Cougars in both rebounds (8) and assists (5) while scoring 16. Alex Igual finished with 15 points while Brian Ofori had 12 points and seven rebounds and Brandon Tull chipped in with 10 points despite being in foul trouble for much of the game.
The Vikes started out strong, turning what had been a one-point game with two minutes to go in the opening quarter to an 11-point lead 90 seconds later after a quick 10-0 run that saw four different Vikes score. The Vikes kept that momentum going in the second, as back-to-back three-pointers by Jordan Charles and Theil capped an 8-0 run and put the Vikes up 15 just over two minutes into the period.
But the Cougars had a response, chipping away at the lead and getting a lift at the halftime buzzer when rookie Samuel Hillis drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 46-42 at the break.
Those late baskets in the first half set the tone for the second as the Cougars took the lead midway through the third quarter for the first time since early in the first when McGowan sliced through the Victoria defence and laid it up and in for two of his 16 points on the night. Brandon Dunlop replied with a three-pointer for Victoria a couple minutes later that gave the lead back to the visitors, but that would be the Vikes’ last lead of the night. McGowan immediately tied up the game with another bucket, and then the Cougars reeled off eight straight points to go up 66-57 early in the fourth.
Though Victoria got to within four points at three different stages of the fourth quarter – and as late as with two minutes to go – it was always a two-possession lead down the stretch for the Cougars. Brandon Tull and Jonathan Tull both hit a pair of key free throws in the closing seconds, and a three-point play by Igual with 38 seconds left sealed the win.
The loss puts Victoria in a precarious situation in the Pioneer Division playoff race. The Vikes can still squeak into the postseason – but only if they win both of their remaining games against Brandon, Alberta loses each of its remaining three games, and UBC doesn’t finish in first place in the division. As for the fourth-place Cougars, they’re just one win away from clinching their first appearance in the postseason since the 2010-11 season.
The Cougars prepare for a tough test on the road at Pioneer Division-leading Calgary (14-3) next weekend before closing out the conference schedule at home against Saskatchewan (6-10) on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20. The Vikes now enter a bye week ahead of a crucial home series against the Brandon Bobcats at the CARSA Performance Gym on Feb. 19-20.
SCORING BY QUARTER:
1 2 3 4 F
UVIC: 23 23 11 25 82
REG: 14 28 22 27 91