When the defending national champions beat you one night and you have a 20-point lead over them a day later, you don't sit on your lead and wait for the clock to run out.
The Dinos men's basketball team almost learned this the hard way last weekend when they visited the University of Alberta Golden Bears and came through with a tight victory on Saturday, following a bruising loss on Friday.
If the Dinos didn't already know that the Bears won the national title last year, they had to sit through a 20-minute ring presentation and banner-unfurling prior to Friday's game. Both teams came out of the gate with a furor, and no one was safe on the court. Bears star Mike Melnychuk left the game after a 19-point first half with a nasty gash above his eyebrow. The Dinos gave up 30 free throws to the Bears, a number that wasn't entirely their fault.
Chris Wright led the way for the Dinos, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half on six-for-six shooting, but the visitors trailed by 11 at the half. The rest of the team's stars came through in the second half and three other players reached double figures led by John Riad's 19. But the Bears held on to win 87-78, a score that failed to show how close the game really was. Wright led the team with six boards, and guard Whit Hornsberger added six assists to his 11 points.
Saturday's game saw the Dinos out for vengeance. They held a comfortable 12-point lead at the 20-minute mark, and boosted that to a 20-point lead early in the second half. They chose to sit on the lead at that point, rather than build it, and the Bears took advantage. Edmonton took a 66-65 lead around the two-minute mark. The Dinos reclaimed their lead 68-66, then saw the Bears tie it. Riad put the Dinos up by one with a free throw, then saw Phil Sudol hit two foul shots at the other end to put the U of A up 70-69 with only 40 seconds remaining. Finally, Dinos guard Aman Heran was able to put the game away with a three-pointer, securing the Dinos' first win of the season.
"I was watching for the ball," admitted Heran, who hit three key treys down the stretch, despite playing on a charleyhorse that prevented him from starting. "When I got the ball, I knew I was going to hit the shot. It was just a matter of getting the look."
"[The other players] worked the ball around and got him the right shot at the right time," said Dinos Head Coach Dan Vanhooren, a former Golden Bear. "It says a lot that they found a way to win."
Heran and Hornsberger led the Dinos with 13 points apiece. Riad racked up seven assists while Hornsberger added five.
The Dinos will host high flying Ryan Reed and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in yet another tough matchup Nov. 22-23 at 8:15 p.m. at the Jack Simpson.