Griffins can't overcome slow start, sharp-shooter Randall in 77-61 loss to Bisons

Griffins defenders Drew Knox, left, and Haley Lalor try to contain Manitoba's Taylor Randall on Friday. She dropped 31 points on MacEwan as the Bisons won 77-61 (Eduardo Perez photo).
Griffins defenders Drew Knox, left, and Haley Lalor try to contain Manitoba's Taylor Randall on Friday. She dropped 31 points on MacEwan as the Bisons won 77-61 (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – There wasn't a shovel big enough for the MacEwan Griffins to dig themselves out of the hole they fell into in the first quarter on Friday night.

Hitting four out of five three-pointers attempted in the opening 10 minutes and taking advantage of some MacEwan defensive miscommunication, the visiting Manitoba Bisons raced out to a 24-10 lead and never looked back, en route to a 77-61 win in Canada West women's basketball action.

In fact, MacEwan never led once in the contest, which was the first action for both teams after a lengthy semester break layoff.

"I think both teams were a little bit sloppy coming out first game back after the break," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "We certainly were a little bit frantic. Some miscommunications gave them some openings. They knocked down shots at the start of the game. The first half, they shot 60 per cent from the three-point line. It kills you and it kills your momentum because now you're having to inbound the ball and go to attack.

"It wasn't until the last five minutes of the first half where I really felt we got our feet under us and then we were pretty competitive later in the game. When you dig yourself a hole like that, it's a tough spot to get out of."

Manitoba ran its score up to 50 at the half, taking a 21-point lead into the final 20 minutes. MacEwan clawed back, winning the second half 32-27, but it wasn't enough to affect the outcome.

The Bisons move to 4-5, dropping the Griffins to 2-7 – an important result for a team sitting right on the playoff line.

"For sure," agreed Bisons head coach Michele Sung. "We talked about the second half where every game is pretty much a must-win if we want to put ourselves in a situation where we can be competitive in playoffs."

Taylor Randall produced a monster outing with 31 points to lead the visitors, while Deidre Bartlett chipped in 11 and Emily Johnson had 10.

"For her, it's matchup dependent now because she's played in the game long enough where everything's pretty scoutable," said Sung of Randall – the Bisons' leading scorer – who came into the contest averaging 17.3 a night. "Our posts did a great job today occupying inside, which gives her space to work. It's that two-fold effect."

If the head coach had a complaint, the Bisons didn't get much from their bench – outscored 35-22 by the Griffins in that category.

"We didn't get great consistency when we went to our bench or when we went back to starters," said Sung. "We just didn't have great flow with subs. If we want to play fast-paced like we're trying to do, you need to have everyone ready to go."

Mackenzie Farmer led the Griffins with 17 points and six rebounds, while Shannon Majeau chipped in nine points and five boards. Mount Royal University transfer Drew Knox, playing her first Canada West game in more than three years after recovering from a knee injury, produced six points in 20 minutes on the floor.

"We're pretty excited to have her back and it's going to take her some time to find her way, but she's going to do some good things for us," said Adams.

The teams will meet again on Saturday (5 p.m., Canada West TV presented by Co-op). MacEwan's second half performance is something they can build on for the rematch.

"I would even go back into the last three minutes of the first half and the second half," said Adams. "That was more characteristic of who we are and how we want to play.

"We just had to play through the struggle a little bit to find ourselves, which is somewhat expected after the break. You hope it doesn't happen – the fumbled passes and dribbling out of bounds – (but it did). I think we can definitely look at the second half as a positive and build on that for tomorrow."