VICTORIA – In a contest where defence was optional, the UVic Vikes men’s basketball team managed to come out on top, 100-97, over the Mount Royal Cougars inside the CARSA Performance Gym on Jan. 26.

“There is a lot of parity in our league, it doesn’t matter if you are at home or away, you have to bring your “A” game and they are a tough team,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp.

The two teams that are currently locked in an extremely close Canada West playoff race played with all the intensity of a post-season match, as the visiting Cougars were good on 52 per cent of their shots from the field while the Vikes hit on 48 per cent of their attempts in the victory.

The most telling statistic on the night was the Vikes advantage on the offensive glass, they grabbed nine more offensive boards than the Cougars to gain nine more possessions in a game that came down to the very final one.

“That was critical, offensive rebounding and defending ball screen action at the top really hurt us tonight,” said Cougars head coach Marc Dobell. “It was a good battle, unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of it and we have to do a better job defensively tomorrow night if we want to win.”

The victory was a crucial one for a Vikes team that moves into a tie for fifth-place in the conference with a record of 10-7. The loss for the Cougars drops them to 7-10 on the year and they now sit one game out of the playoff spots, 13th place in Canada West.

Justin Kinnear and Jason Scully both scored 21 points in the Vikes victory. Those points combined with Hayden Lejeune‘s 14, played a large role in the Vikes out-scoring MRU 50-32 in the paint.

“They had pretty good games down there offensively and gave us chances for easy baskets,” said Beaucamp. “We play a lot of spread line ups, but you need to get some easy baskets when you aren’t hitting shots, and they gave us a chance to get some easy baskets and dominate down low.”

Josh Ross was undoubtedly the story of the night for the visitors. The fifth-year guard shot over 50 per cent from the field en route to putting up a staggering 43 points.

“He’s a pretty special player and he was fired up tonight,” said Dobell. “He played well tonight and we are going to need that tomorrow again if we want to be successful. We also need some other guys to step up and share the ball a little bit.”

John Hegwood and Noah Lewis rounded out the scoring for the Cougars with 12 points apiece.

A game that saw the two teams trading baskets back and forth entered the halftime break with the visitors holding a slim 46-45 lead. A large part of that advantage was the 21 points Ross put up in the opening half.

“They have an awfully good player in Ross and he really hurt us, especially in the first half,” said Beaucamp. “We were way too passive in the first half and that’s my fault, we have to be picking up defensively full court and we seemed to have a tough time with our on-ball defence. We were soft and didn’t have any grit to our game.”

“In the second half we started playing harder but there was nothing more to it than playing harder.”

The Vikes narrowly out-scored the Cougars 25-22 in the third quarter to set up what was a wild finish.

The Vikes opened their lead up to eight points just minutes into the fourth quarter, but whenever that advantage got too large, the Cougars had a response, charging down the court to even up the score.

“I think they (MRU) got a little fatigued in the second half but we still couldn’t get any separation, any time we got the lead to five or six, they would come down and hit a three-point shot so that’s going to have to better tomorrow if we are going to get the same result,” said Beaucamp.

Kinnear hit free-throws on back-to-back possession to stretch the Vikes lead to seven points with just 1:39 left to play, but again the Cougars refused to go away. Noah Lewis hit a huge three-pointer with ten seconds left to make it just a two point game.

After Scott Kellum could only make one-of-two from the line, Ross raced down the court and let go a shot from well beyond the arc, but the ball sailed harmlessly wide to allow the Vikes to escape with the 100-97 victory.

With fundraising efforts taking place by both the men’s and women’s Vikes basketball teams as well as the Athletic Department as a whole, the 11th annual Shoot for the Cure game raised over $9,000 towards research and awareness for the Canadian Cancer Society. The $9,082 amount was the highest-ever raised by UVic.