Third-quarter lapse costs Griffins in 79-56 loss to visiting WolfPack

Abdullah Shittu splits between a pair of TRU defenders on Friday night. He led the Griffins with 14 points (Eduardo Perez photo).
Abdullah Shittu splits between a pair of TRU defenders on Friday night. He led the Griffins with 14 points (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Capitalizing on some soft defensive play in the third quarter, the Thompson Rivers WolfPack blew open a close game and romped to a convincing 79-56 win over the MacEwan Griffins in Canada West men's basketball action on Friday night.

Boasting the top field goal percentage in the conference, the WolfPack are hardly the team you want to give open looks to, but that's what happened to the Griffins, who saw an eight-point half-time deficit balloon to 17 in less than four minutes in the middle of the third quarter.

"In the third quarter, we stopped our scouting report," lamented MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "We left shooters open. It was really simple. The guys have got to execute the scouting report. That's a lack of focus. We've just got to get guys on the page, and we've got to figure things out."

MacEwan was behind the eight-ball after that third-quarter lapse and the WolfPack never let them back into the contest, finishing the night with 48.4 per cent shooting (which incredibly brought their season average down), and were a red hot 34.8 per cent from beyond the arc.

"We're a pretty good shooting team," said WolfPack head coach Scott Clark. "I think we lead the conference in field goal percentage. What does that mean? Well, you've got some guys that can shoot the basketball.

"I think the defence is a little more indicative of what I think is a team effort."

TRU improves to 4-1 with the result, while the Griffins (0-5) are still searching for their first win of the season.

Tyus De Vries led TRU with 19 points off the bench, while Joe Davis bucketed 18, narrowly missing a double double with nine rebounds. Micheal Rouault did manage the feat with 11 points and 12 boards.

"It was a grinding game," said Clark. "I don't think that score is indicative of the type of game it was. The baskets were hard to come by on both sides. We're just fortunate to be on the right side of a grinding Canada West game on the road."

MacEwan was led by Abdullah Shittu's 14-point effort, while Alex Jap just missed his second-straight double with 11 points and nine rebounds. But other starters combined for just 16 points.

"We're not getting good production from our older guys," said Connolly. "The young guys went in there and did a good job and battled and competed, but our guys who've been around are not doing what they're supposed to do. They're not playing D, they're not leading, so we just have to get that going."

Ultimately, the Griffins fell apart on the defensive end, despite proving they could shut down one of the top teams in Canada West early, holding the WolfPack to just 34 points in the first half.

"We have a great defensive effort, but we're not mentally tough enough to sustain it and that's the biggest thing," said Connolly. "We have to become mentally tougher. If we're mentally tougher, we don't give those runs, we don't give up those threes, we play more consistent and we're not. We have to get there. We have to make them understand that to get to the next level."

The teams will meet again on Saturday night (7 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).