A mumps-free University of Calgary Dinos men's basketball squad swept their series against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies this weekend. The pair of victories improves the Dinos winning streak to six games and gives them a four-point lead over the University of Alberta Golden Bears for top spot in the Central division of Canada West.
It took a time-out pep talk from head coach Dan Vanhooren to get the team out of their early game rut. After refocusing, the team regained momentum.
"I'm not sure whether we were too energetic or whether we came out with not enough energy but we were flat for some reason," said 6'8" Dinos forward Ross Bekkering. "Our coach said you just got to find that happy medium and we came out a lot better towards the end of the first quarter."
The Dinos fought hard and Henry Bekkering had a nice dunk at the 4:44 mark of the second quarter which gave the Dinos a lead they didn't relinquish. The Dinos were up by fifteen points at half-time and managed to keep Husky forward Andrew Spagrud--who is a perennial All-Canadian--scoreless in the first half. They went on to outscore the Huskies 55-35 in the second half for a strong 104-69 win. The Dinos had five players in double-digits for points and Vanhooren could afford the luxury of giving his bench players significant playing time in the fourth quarter as the result was never in doubt.
Hank "The Tank" Bekkering again led the offensive charge for the Dinos with a game-high 23 points which earned him player of the game honours. He also had eight rebounds, just shy of a double-double. Robbie Sihota had 17 points, Jeremy Odland had 10, Tyler Fidler 11 and Andrew Champagnie had 11 in what was probably his best game of the season so far.
Kyle Grant was the only Huskies player who finished with double digits in points at 19.
Saturday night's game was a much closer contest and was only decided late in the game. The Dinos managed to use their size to out-rebound the Huskies 38-27 and out-chance them 21/29 to 6/13 in free throws.
The game was in doubt until 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter with the Dinos maintaining a five point lead. He made his first free-throw attempt and missed on his second chance but Henry Bekkering got the rebound and made the basket giving the Dinos an 81-74 lead. There wasn't enough time left for the Huskies who, admittedly, played much better basketball in this game, to make up the deficit.
A few plays earlier, Ross Bekkering looked like he ended the Huskies chances when he went up for a dunk and was brought down quite violently by Husky guard Rob Lovelace. Surprisingly, no foul was called on the play.
It was the Taber twosome of Ross and Henry Bekkering leading the charge for the Dinos. Ross registered a double-double with 15 rebounds and 15 points. Henry had a game-high 23 points. Sihota finished with 17 points and earned player of the game honours for the Dinos.
Dino rookie Tyler Fidler did not manage to reach double digits in points but his play has been gradually improving with every game so far this season and he is now the first player off the bench on a deep Dino squad.
"I'm settling pretty well," said Fidler when asked how his first season has been going. "I'm getting decent minutes and we're playing well so any role I can play to help this team win, I'll be happy."
"From a freshman, you can't ask for much more," said Dan Vanhooren on Fidler's play. "He's an outstanding player and an outstanding individual and he's taking on that sort of sixth-man role and embracing it. He's done a great job of it and you can't ask much more. He's a great ball handler and when we're pressured he helps out a lot there and he does a lot of unseen things outside of his shooting and his obvious scoring that's he's capable of."
The meetings of these two squads also gave Dino forward Chris Unsworth an opportunity to play against his brother Clint.
"It's good to always play against him," said Unsworth. "We don't get to see each other very often so it's a bit of a reunion and then it's all business on the court."
The Dinos are now on their Christmas break and won't play another regular season game until the Jan. 4 against the Bears again in Edmonton. Over Christmas, they will play in the Wesman Tournament to help keep them in game shape. The Dinos cannot afford to lose their momentum if they want to continue being considered a contender in Canada West but they have plenty they can build on to continue their success in the second half of the season.
"We have pretty high expectations now," says Vanhooren. "We're 9-1, we're four games up on Saskatchewan depending on the outcome in Lethbridge, two or three games up on Alberta. So I think it's a big deal for us. We have a lot now we can build on for the second half but we're going to take some time here to get rested up and get refocused, you know, tweak some things so that we're prepared to play Alberta at Alberta right after Christmas."