Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Although they're already in their fourth year of play in the Canada West conference, the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team will face the UBC Thunderbirds this weekend for the first time.
Due to scheduling over their first few years – being placed in the Explorer Division initially contributed – the Griffins (4-10) and Thunderbirds (11-3) haven't yet had a chance to get acquainted. They will do just that in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday (8 p.m. MT both nights, Canada West TV).
MacEwan is coming in off a weekend split against Mount Royal University – the latter game an 80-70 win where five players hit double digits. They'll certainly need that kind of effort again and more against a team that's ranked sixth in U SPORTS and is hungry after losing 106-101 to Lethbridge their last time out.
"For us, it's about playing together and playing as a team, and doing extra efforts," said head coach Eric Magdanz. "UBC's one of the best rebounding teams, if not the best rebounding team, in our conference. For us, being undersized compared to them, it's going to be winning one-on-one matchups and making an effort to get more loose balls."
MacEwan is led by Ali Raza, who is averaging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. But both Ryan Coleman (10.9) and Deonte Doslov-Doctor (10.7) are also averaging double digits, meaning the Griffins can spread things around. Beyond the depth, having a player really step up and get hot couldn't hurt when you're playing the top teams.
"I think it's a combination," said Magdanz. "We're going to need a total team effort and that results with a lot of guys getting on the scoresheet. But sometimes there's an opportunity for players to have big weekends and I think this is an opportunity this weekend as well."
UBC is led by forward Conor Morgan, who tops Canada West with 25.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. But they also have other threats, so it's going to a concerted effort to slow them down.
While the Griffins are in a dogfight for their playoff lives and will be gunning for victory this weekend (they're currently one game back of the final post-season berth) the process of going against one of the best teams in the nation can only help the young team in the future.
"Experiences are very important when you have a younger team and opportunities to continue to show growth and to improve are important," said Magdanz. "For us, we've made some great strides over this year and this semester in improving our defence and improving not only as individuals, but within our team tactics.
"Now we get to test that against a stronger opponent and get to stack ourselves up to see where we fit in Canada West."