The Dinos went into the weekend looking to guarantee a playoff spot by sweeping Trinity Western University, but ended up with a split and an insecure future. Calgary won 76-56 on Friday, but lost the next game 68-64 leaving a window for the Spartans to steal the final playoff spot next weekend.
Both games were held in the Red Gym, creating a high school-like atmosphere which the Dinos did not use to their advantage early on. On Friday night, the Dinos came out uninspired, and were quickly behind 13-2 after four minutes of play. The Dinos defence soon picked up, and big man Chris Harris brought the University of Calgary to within one on a dunk with 12:30 to go in the half. The teams traded baskets until five minutes left in the half when Brad Gallup tied the score with a three point basket. The half ended with Calgary up by seven, and the team never looked back. The second half showcased impressive defence and the dominance of the U of C . Trinity Western was forced into shooting 30 per cent from the field in the second half, resulting in a 20-point victory for Calgary.
On Saturday, the Dinos' shooting touch left the gym. Calgary's guards combined for 27 per cent shooting in the second game, and, despite a valiant comeback in the second half, victory was out of reach. Again the Dinos fell behind early in the game, but this time they could not make up the difference. Trinity Western employed a full-court press for most of the game which seemed to rush Calgary's offence, resulting in 26 turnovers and poor shot selection.
"We were a little anxious, having seven turnovers on our first 10 possessions," noted coach Cory Russell. "[We were] just very irresponsible on offence."
Even the Dinos' vaunted defence began to unravel and Trinity Western led by 16 at the half. Opening the second half with inspired basketball, the Dinos went on a 12-0 run, but it wasn't quite enough. Calgary would climb to within three late in the second half, but could get no closer.
Saturday highlighted many of the problems the Dinos have had this season: poor shooting and turnovers. Now Calgary must regroup against Regina this weekend to ensure Trinity Western does not steal the final playoff spot. The Dinos will make the playoffs, unless they lose both games and Trinity Western wins one game. At this point in the season, though, Calgary cannot take any more chances and must finish the season on a high note.
Amid the disappointment after Saturday's game, the Dinos did have some bright spots, most notably the stellar play of second-year forward Andy Stordeur. Stordeur averaged close to 12 rebounds and 17 points on the weekend, shooting 65 per cent. Third-year centre Harris also played well, shooting 73 per cent over both games, providing hustle and vocal leadership. Their play did not go unnoticed by Russell.
"Andy's been like that the whole season. Chris has not been as good all year, but to his credit he was really challenged to step up his game, and last weekend he was just terrific. [Stordeur's] taking it upon himself to carry some more of the burden and responsibility."
If the Dinos continue their level of play, and the guards get their shooting touch back, the Dinos should be playoff bound. But Regina, with four more wins than Calgary, will prove to be a challenge, as Russell realizes.
"We have to defend their transition, they really are explosive on offence. We've got to take care of the ball, and hit our open shots."