Jason Hills, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — When you're a rebuilding program, there are going to be games where you battle inconsistency and the MacEwan Griffins certainly felt that come to fruition in their season opener against the Mount Royal Cougars.
A strong opening first half, followed up with a mistake-ridden second half led to a 96-80 loss Friday night at the David Atkinson gymnasium.
Former Griffin Lincoln Anderson led Mount Royal with 25 points and 14 rebounds in his first game since transferring to the Cougars. Adam Pahl recoded 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals to pace the Cougars in the victory.
"Lincoln was pretty motivated to play here tonight after playing for the Griffins a couple of years ago. He had a real strong game for us on the offensive side and we're looking for big things from him this year," said Cougars head coach Marc Dobell.
"I thought we lacked energy in the first half, but in the third quarter we moved the ball more and we were more active and got our hands on balls and that really helped us gain momentum."
Missing a veteran presence like Jake Notice in the lineup and some other key veterans, MacEwan had to rely on some of their new recruits for some much needed production and the Griffins played a solid first half.
They led just 45-41, but they had just seven turnovers and were really putting pressure on the Cougars, particularly with their strong shooting from the perimeter.
But that changed in the second half.
Anderson scored 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter and suddenly, MacEwan made too many mistakes at both ends of the floor and were dominated on the glass, being out rebounded 53-38.
"We had too many turnovers. In the second quarter we started to give up too much penetration and that started it and then it carried over in the second half," said Griffins first-year head coach Mike Connolly.
"We didn't defend like we can, and that's who we are, that's got to be our identity and I thought we lost focus in key moments tonight. That's what killed us in the second half."
Tabufor's scoring presence off the bench along with eight points, four rebounds and two assists from freshman Grayson Youngs in 22 minutes of action was a big reason why MacEwan hung around in the second half.
MacEwan got 43 points from their bench, but didn't get the results from some of their veterans like Shittu and Deonte Doslov-Doctor.
MacEwan closed the gap, trailing just 84-76, in the late stages of the game, but couldn't capitalize when Mount Royal's shooting went cold for a stretch in the fourth quarter.
A jumper from Pahl just inside the three-point line ended the Cougars cold streak and that seemed to delate the Griffins comeback attempt as Mount Royal went on a 12-4 run to finish the game.
"We had to play a lot of young guys with some injuries and they stepped up. We were right there, we were only down 10 with three (minutes) to go," said Connolly.
"This year, it's about the process and we're trying to take little steps and it's coming — for sure.
"We didn't have some of our senior guys stepping up like they should and they need to step up in critical times and we didn't get that tonight."
MacEwan and Mount Royal will wrap up their weekend series on Saturday at 2 p.m. (David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).