VICTORIA – 29 points in the third quarter allowed the visiting Mount Royal Cougars to pick up a narrow, 89-75, victory over the UVic Vikes inside the CARSA Performance Gym on Saturday, Jan. 27
The Cougars ended the night with their largest lead of the game in a contest that was a tale of two halves. The Vikes controlled the opening twenty minutes with some stifling defence, before the Cougars free wheeling offence kicked into high gear to the tune of 52 second half points.
The game was crucially important for both teams as the post-season nears in a Canada West conference that currently has nine teams within two games of each other, all battling for just eight remaining playoff spots.
Victory for Mount Royal moves them to 8-10 on the season where they are currently tied with both Winnipeg and Brandon for 11th in the conference. Meanwhile for Victoria, the loss denied UVic the chance to separate themselves from the pack, their record of 10-8 has them in a four-way tie for fifth.
Josh Ross was once again the star for Mount Royal, compiling 31 points and 15 rebounds on the night. Unlike last night however, where Ross was the only Cougars player with more than 12 points, Mount Royal found a way to support Ross.
Nick Tancon scored 27 points to go with his 15 rebounds, as the Comox, B.C. native took away the advantage down low that the Vikes held last night.
Scott Kellum was the top-scorer for the Vikes, putting up 23 points in his 28 minutes on the floor. Mason Loewen added 15 points, while Jordan Charles finished just one rebound shy of the double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.
One night after surrendering 97 points, the Vikes defence came out of the gates with some pressure, limiting the Cougars to just 33 first half points. UVic’s offence couldn’t take full advantage of that however, as the Cougars held them to shooting just 39 per cent from the floor as a team, for 40 first half points.
The offensive output of both teams picked up in the third quarter, but it was the Cougars who fared better when the pace of play increased. Ross scored 12 points all by himself, as the Cougars hit 68 per cent of their shots in the frame to score 29 points and take a 62-59 lead into the fourth and final quarter.
Hayden Lejeune hit a jumper with 7:13 left to play to give the Vikes back the lead as they started the fourth quarter the stronger of the two squads. Tancon caught fire down the stretch for Mount Royal however, scoring nine points in the frame and his and-one play with 2:45 left to go gave the Cougars a 78-73 advantage.
After the teams claimed three points apiece in the final minutes, Jordan Charles stepped up for the Vikes to give his team a chance. The fourth-year guard knocked down a three-pointer with just 19 seconds left to play to make the score 81-79 in favour of Mount Royal.
When the game was on the line the Cougars knew just where to turn.
Ross was clutch from the free-throw line to extend the Mount Royal lead and allow them to hold on for the 85-79 victory.
Both of these teams will wrap up their Canada West regular season schedule next week.
The Cougars will take on the Calgary Dinos in a home-and-home set on Thursday, Feb. 1 and Friday, Feb. 2. The Vikes will also play a Thursday, Friday schedule, they host the UBC T-Birds on Feb. 1 before travelling to Vancouver the next night.
UVIC: 21-19-19-20: 75
MRU: 18-15-29-23: 89