Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – With the game all but over at half-time, you could have heard a pin drop in the David Atkinson Gym on Friday night.
That is unless you were next to the Winnipeg Wesmen bench where there was plenty of hooting and hollering as shots continued to swish in a 113-75 beatdown of the homestanding MacEwan Griffins.
The sparse home crowd had little to cheer for as the Griffins came out with one of their most lackluster efforts of a Canada West men's basketball season that has already seen them lose to Alberta by 51 and to Lethbridge by 38.
"It's a bit of shades of all of our games this year where we've put it together for certain portions of games, but we haven't put it together for an entire game," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz. "This league is good and if you take 10 minutes off, you're not going to come back from it."
Winnipeg essentially won the game in a dominant second quarter where they outscored MacEwan 34-13, a thorough destruction of great shooting on their side and sleepy play on the part of the Griffins.
"Honestly, our level of communication defensively was poor our entire night," said Magdanz. "They found those advantages in the second quarter and hit some shots and were able to pull away.
"We can't bring that kind of effort defensively and expect to stay competitive in this league."
With the result, MacEwan falls to 0-5, while Winnipeg improves to 3-2.
The Wesmen were just lights out from everywhere, shooting 51.7 per cent from the field, including 12-for-26 from behind the arc.
"As a group, we wanted to defend first and try to get into transition if we could," said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault. "I thought especially in the first half we were getting stops that led to some high-quality shots for us going the other way."
Outscoring the Griffins 29-13 off turnovers, the Wesmen dominated transition and came with just too much speed for MacEwan to handle. The Griffins weathered the first storm of the match when they fell behind 11-2 in the opening three-and-a-half minutes, rallying back to only trail 25-19 at the quarter horn.
But the second storm completely snowed them under.
"We just saw a different level of engagement for about those five minutes of the first quarter where we were aggressive offensively, we attacked them defensively and we cleaned up the glass," said Magdanz. "We just have to be able to be more consistent and be able to put it together and contain our own end."
Raimbault was impressed with his players' hot start to both the first and second quarters.
"We've got some new guys and we're coming together still as a group, so that was the challenge coming in was to try to get off to a quick start and concentrate primarily at the defensive end if we could," he said. "I was happy with what we did in the first half, for sure."
Sean Tarver was everywhere for the Wesmen in bucketing 27 points, adding six rebounds.
"As a group we were able to find him in some favourable spots," said Raimbault. "He did a good job of getting involved in the game by rebounding, I thought early. Usually when he's rebounding, he finds a way to get us a few buckets inside in the paint and that usually leads to him hitting a few shots as well."
Winnipeg's Narcisse Ambanza flirted with a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, adding three steals, to boot. Terence Ross hit three late three-pointers in garbage time to produce the best pound-for-pound performance – 14 points in just eight minutes. Don Dayritt also had 14 off the bench while Joseph Medrano produced 13 points and six rebounds.
MacEwan's lone bright spot was Liban Yousef coming off the bench to net a double-double (15 points and 10 rebounds) in 20 minutes of work.
"Liban's been a guy that's been a consistent offensive performer for us this entire year," said Magdanz. "He's been a bright spot there. He's been continuing to improve defensively. I really do think he's a guy we can look forward to moving forward."
As for Saturday's rematch (7 p.m., David Atkinson Gym), Magdanz has a clear message for his players.
"The message has to be being consistent and being competent," he said. "We have to know where we can be a little bit riskier from, we have to know where our help side is, and we have to be able to control our man one on one where we don't need help every single possession.
"I think we have the bodies to be able to do it. We showed it against Lethbridge and I think it's about us being able to put it together."