The Dinos men's basketball team proved they will not soon be forgotten as they gave the University of Alberta Golden Bears a tense fight Remembrance Day weekend. Really, it was the Dinos who were golden as they came together to press the Bears in every area of the court. In the end, all that separated the teams were a couple of free throws. What are the odds Watson?
The main gym on the U of A campus had the tension of a courtroom right from the beginning Fri., Nov. 11. Whit Hornsberger, Chris Wright and Ross Bekkering were the Dinos' chief prosecutors, while Dean Whalen was the Bears' mainstay cross-examiner.
With Bekkering fouling out in the first 14 minutes, the Dinos were down at the half 41-39, but proved that hope floats on hardwood when they pulled through the second half with a nine-point lead with seven minutes left. Golden Bear post Phil Sudol's free throw shot tied the game up at regulation, causing the men to battle it out in overtime.
Another two free throws from Whalen with 3.2 seconds left put the Dinos under more pressure than Rosie O'Donnell in a donut shop. In a fit of desperation, Hornsberger flushed a three-point shot at the buzzer that the referees chose not to count. Whether this was the worst decision since Europe decided Hitler was just a hyper little German chap or not, the final score was 90-88 for the Golden Bears.
The following night the Dinos came on strong, up 38-41 at the half while the Bears were once again led by Whalen to keep the game within a range of a few points.
The second half proved trickier, as Calgary was out-played, but came back to kick the habit and bring suspense to the final minutes. The Dinos made a comeback bigger than Jordan, narrowing their deficit to one point. Two free throws from the Bears drained the possibility of a win yet again, and the Dinos came up shy 80-77.
Offensive giants for the Dinos were, once again, Hornsberger with 15 points, Wright with 14 and Brian Finniss with 12.
The Dinos stand at 0-4 in league play. But considering the obstacles overcome, this is not an impossible stance.
"I think it's a process for us," observed Head Coach Dan Vanhooren. "If it was about winning right now, 0-4 would be hard on us, and I don't see that. We know that we have a lot of winnable games in the next 15 games in our conference, and so we're just going to approach it one game at a time."
So far this strategy has proven well for the Dinos statistically as shooting was golden against the Bears. Hornsberger's shooting fell just shy of sheer perfection on Friday--he shot 85 per cent on field goals and 80 per cent on three-pointers. Wright maintained his powerhouse title with 22 points and 14 rebounds in Friday's game.
Dinos Rookie of the Month Ross Bekkering gifted the Dinos with 14 points in as many minutes the same night. Bekkering believes that he got the raw end of the deal on a couple of the fouls called against him.
"I've just been working on being a more aggressive player," Bekkering said. "Chris [Wright] has helped me a lot and gives me tips about what to do as a post, helped me to take it stronger, be more aggressive, stuff like that."
This talent will heat up the cold Calgary nights in the coming weeks as the Dinos are back home Fri., Nov. 25 to play the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and again Dec. 3-4 to play the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Vanhooren has high expectations for all of these games.
"When we get to playing Lethbridge you're going to see a team that comes here and presses and drives and is very guard-oriented," he promised. "And then we're going to play, I think, one of the top teams in the country, Saskatchewan. So, it doesn't get any easier. They're going to be very competitive games within five or 10 points every night. Our fans need to be patient with our young group and allow them to develop because by the time we hit January, we'll be very good."
The appetizer to these games will be another face off on the road with the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg Nov. 18-19. An additional perk to these games is the expected return of Dinos six-foot-seven forward Sonny Khangura after a serious ankle injury. All of these factors should combine to form three full weeks with enough basketball action to revive even the most dead of finals-induced brains.