Griffins push No. 6-ranked Huskies behind Jap's double double, increased compete, but fall 79-65

Alex Jap, seen in action during a game last season, posted the first double double of his university career on Saturday night (Chris Piggott photo).
Alex Jap, seen in action during a game last season, posted the first double double of his university career on Saturday night (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

-With files from Huskie Athletics

SASKATOON – Starting for the first time this season after recovering from an injury, Alex Jap recorded the first double-double of his university career as the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team pushed the No. 6-ranked team in U SPORTS to the limit on Saturday night.

Saskatchewan survived by going on a late run to beat the Griffins 79-65 and complete a weekend sweep.

Second-year forward Jap led the Griffins with 12 points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action as he continues to get up to speed following an injury layoff.

"Alex worked hard and finished around the basket," said MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "And he rebounded the ball well.

"We made huge steps forward in our effort and compete level this weekend," he added. "Now we can start focusing on some tactical  stuff that will help us moving forward."

Deonte Doslov-Doctor added 10 points for the Griffins, while Abdullah Shittu and Luke Harold chipped in nine apiece.

Alexander Dewar helped pace the Huskies with a 15-point, 12-rebound performance, which included a game-high five boards on the offensive glass. J.T. Robinson led Saskatchewan in scoring with 22 points, while hauling in seven boards of his own. Emmanuel Akintunde followed up his career-high 24-point performance on Friday night by recording 15 points and eight rebounds.

With the result, Saskatchewan improves to 4-0, while MacEwan falls to 0-4.

In a back-and-forth first quarter, the visitors came out looking to avenge their Friday night loss. After the two teams exchanged buckets throughout the majority of the opening frame, Dewar elevated over a Griffins defender and knocked down the mid-range jumper to extend the Huskies' lead to three in the final seconds of the first, giving the hosts a 20-17 advantage after 10 minutes of action.

The visitors were able to rally, however, and took a 32-31 lead at the 4:30 mark of the second quarter off of an Abiel Tabufor three-pointer. But from there, the Huskies went on a 12-0 run in the final 4:30 of the half, as Robinson's three-ball with 42 seconds remaining gave Saskatchewan a 43-32 lead at recess.

MacEwan outscored Saskatchewan 21-15 in the third quarter, as they willed themselves back in the ball game late in the frame. The visitors trimmed the deficit from 12 points down to three, thanks in part to two triples from Gregoire Piche-Wint and another from Jesse Trussler. However, the Huskies slowed the run with a Ryker Wuttke slam with a minute remaining in the frame. 

Saskatchewan took control in the final quarter, as they were able to keep MacEwan at bay and out of striking distance. Dewar's hoop and the harm was able to extend the Huskies lead to 15 with under four minutes remaining in the fourth, all but sealing the win for the home side.

"We hung in there today by taking their transition away," said Connolly. "Last night they scored 24 points in transition and tonight they scored seven points in transition.

"We continued with a very good effort but tonight we followed our game plan better and thus we were in able to have success."

The Griffins next head home for a pair of matches against Thompson Rivers University on Nov. 15-16 (8 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, both on Canada West TV presented by Co-op).