Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Alberta Golden Bears rookie guard Adam Paige had as many rebounds as the entire MacEwan Griffins team did on Saturday.
After letting that sink in, the result will come as no surprise: a 97-46 victory for the Bears that completes a weekend sweep over their cross-town Canada West rival.
"I think guys did their job," said Alberta head coach Barnaby Craddock. "I was impressed with freshman Adam Paige – 16 rebounds on the night. A big athletic kid and he's having a fantastic start to his U SPORTS career."
Paige, a 6-foot-8 guard out of Surrey, B.C., added 16 points in a monster double-double. Fourth-year forward Brody Clark had a double-double for the second-straight game with 17 points and 10 boards. And three other Golden Bears were in double digits – Cole Knudsen (15), Dwan Williams (13) and Tyus Jefferson (10) – as Alberta shot 50 per cent from the field.
As bad as the rebounding discrepancy was – 61-16 in favour of Alberta – MacEwan was able to overcome that early and were in the game, down by just two, late in the second quarter.
"I think we were fortunate," said Griffins head coach Eric Magdanz. "We played some really good defence in the first half, which made some of their shots difficult. In the second half, those shots fell for them.
"They made some shots and went on a run and got some energy out of that, which compounded for them. For us, if we can handle the rebounding part of it, it's going to let us run in transition and get back to the style of play that we want."
In other words, fix the rebounding woes and everything else will fall into place for a young Griffins squad, who have six players on the active roster in their first year of eligibility. How they lost the battle in the paint will be valuable video for them to review over the next few days.
"For us, it's about making early contact," said Magdanz. "U of A did a good job when they put a shot on the rim, they were prepped and ready to go after the board. When we didn't make early contact, they made us pay for that.
"In the first half, I thought we did a good job of recovering out of it. As the game went on, if you're going to give up offensive rebounds, it's going to come back to haunt you."
The floodgates on that began to open late in the first half when the Golden Bears closed on a 10-2 run. They blew wide open in a third quarter of Alberta dominance as they outscored MacEwan 39-16 to turn the contest into a blowout.
"The second half, we definitely felt like we got some better looks and knocked them down," said Craddock. "That's when the score got a little one-sided.
"It's opening weekend, and everybody's got a lot of games left," he continued. "We were trying to play 40 minutes of our style of basketball, so we can keep building on that. Obviously, we were really happy, particularly how we played defensively."
Part of that was holding Jake Notice in check. The third-year wing gave the Bears fits in Thursday's opener, finishing with a game-high 21 points, but they held him to just nine in 32 minutes on Saturday. Even still, that led the Griffins, who shot just 24.6 per cent from the field and only generated 15 free throw attempts in the contest.
With the game out of hand in the fourth quarter, Magdanz closed out the contest with a mostly rookie lineup, valuable learning minutes that will only help them in the future.
"We recognize we're a young team and there's an opportunity for us to learn," said the coach.
"Part of that learning is putting some of our younger players into a moment that's a little bit bigger – our first home game against our cross-town rival.
"We think that giving them that experience, despite the score, is going to pay off for us down the road."
Next up for the Griffins is a trip to Lethbridge Nov. 2-3. Alberta, meanwhile, travels to Calgary on Nov. 1 before hosting the Dinos on Nov. 3.