Dinos guard too hot to handle
After two close battles with one of the tougher customers they will likely face in the U Sports Canada West conference, the UNBC Timberwolves have to look back positively on what happened to them on the men’s basketball court over the weekend at the Northern Sport Centre.
It was no doubt a learning experience trying to stop Mambi Diawara, the Calgary Dinos’ exquisite fourth-year guard, who came up with a 25-point, nine-rebound effort Saturday to lift the Dinos to an 85-75 victory.
That came on the heels of Diawara’s 38-point performance Friday in a 69-53 win over UNBC in Friday’s season-opener.
The T-wolves are 0-2 to start the season but they gave the fans in their home gym plenty of signs they are much improved over the team that won just four of 20 games and missed the playoffs for a second straight season last year.
“At the end of the day Calgary’s a tough squad – they’ve been in the (Canada West) final four year-in, year-out,” said UNBC head coach Todd Jordan. “For us to battle this weekend there are a lot of positives to take out of it. Obviously it would’ve been nice to get one, and we were hoping to get one and we expect to put in an effort to get one, but it didn’t go our way.
“But there’s a lot to take out of it. We’re a fairly new team with six new guys and it’s all a process for us and it’s still early in the season.”
The T-wolves chipped away at Calgary’s 75-64 lead with an 8-3 surge midway through the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 78-72, but the Dinos turned it on down the stretch and scored seven in the final three minutes to salt the victory away. David Kapinga supported the Calgary cause with 15 points and Lars Schluetler had a 12-point game.
Lost in the final outcome was the fact UNBC came out like gangbusters and grabbed a 21-5 lead by the six-minute mark and held the edge until the Dinos starting finding the net. Volodymyr (Vova) Pluzhnikov, a native of Ukraine who red-shirted last season, put up 12 of his team’s 26 first-quarter points. But by the time the firstquarter buzzer sounded, Calgary had crept back to make it 26-20.
Pluzhnikov played the entire 40 minutes, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds. The six-foot Pluzhnikov is about as solid as he is tall and it was his job to try to hound the six-foot-four Diawara.
“He did a reasonable job on him for a lot of possessions,” said Jordan. “He’s going to be a big part of what we do this year.”
Calgary led 44-41 at halftime and 65-56 through 30 minutes. lead by the 2:23 mark.
“That first quarter we put everything together that we had talked about, coming from the first night, and I think that’s why we had such a good first quarter,” said Landry, a second-year forward from Duchess Park. “We all had such good energy and then we all started to lose and it went downhill from there. They came to play and we have to come with the same intensity and effort every game.”
Calgary’s three-point accuracy (9-for-29 in the game) and UNBC’s inability to score threes (2-for-16) was the telling statistic.
Both UNBC basketball teams are on the road this weekend in Langley to play two-game sets with Trinity Western. Coming off a year in which they made the playoffs, Landry said her team’s tough preseason schedule and the three tournaments they played earlier this month has them in a good state of mind.
“We had a lot of tough games coming into the season and I do think we are prepared for the season and now we just have to take a step back and reevaluate everything and come at next weekend’s games with a new outlook,” said the 19-year-old Landry. “We can’t have those ups and downs, we need to keep it more consistent.”
UNBC Timberwolves guard Volodymyr Pluzhnikov puts up a shot against the University of Calgary Dinos on Saturday at the Northern Sport Centre. The Dinos beat the T-wolves 85-75 and left UNBC at 0-2 in the new Canada West men’s basketball season.