The Gee-Gees will play for fifth place after their loss to Dalhousie on Friday night. Photo: Jean-Luc Decamp/The Fulcrum
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Dalhousie, Western, UBC, and Carleton all move on to championship bracket

Day 2 of the USports basketball national championships welcomed the top eight men’s teams in the country to TD Place Arena for a lineup of exciting quarterfinal matchups.

No. 7 University of Ottawa Gee-Gees vs No. 2 Dalhousie Tigers: Tigers down Gee-Gees in close affair

Playing in the tournament as the host team following their blowout loss to Carleton last week, the Gee-Gees had an early test in front of them, facing the AUS champions the Dalhousie Tigers.

Hostilities got off to a tight start as each team replied right away to the other team’s hoops. Coming back from an ankle injury sustained a week and a half ago, Calvin Epistola seemed back to normal and hit a number of impressive baskets, including one from the middle of the court with time expiring on the shot clock. 

Dalhousie’s Shamar Burrows replied to Epistola at the end of the quarter hitting a buzzer-beater from the centre to tie it at 17. 

The second quarter saw both teams trade baskets. Guillaume Pepin and Epistola led the way for Ottawa while Burrows and Matt McVeigh held their ground for the Tigers in a back and forth battle. Both teams scored 14 points in the quarter and headed to their dressing rooms tied at 31. 

In the third quarter, the Gee-Gees weaknesses without Epistola on the court started showing. Dalhousie managed to string a couple of good runs while Epistola was on the bench. The Tigers were able to pull ahead by only two points. After three quarters, the Gee-Gees were down by only two at 48-46. 

Everything fell apart for Ottawa in the fourth quarter as they seemed unable to get any kind of momentum going. Dalhousie dominated the quarter and in the last minutes were up by two possessions. The Tigers took the quarter 19-17 and the game 67-63.

No. 5 Western Mustangs vs No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears: Western makes it rain three-pointers to advance over Alberta

To start the men’s side of the USports national championship tournament, the Alberta Golden Bears tipped off against the Western Mustangs.

Alberta came out strong. Not only were the Mustangs struggling with the aggressive drives from the Golden Bears, but they were also getting overpowered in the rebound game. In the final possession of the opening quarter, the Golden Bears used fast-paced ball movement that Western couldn’t keep up with to find the basket. At the end of the quarter, the Mustangs were trailing 24-11. 

To kick off the second quarter, another display of quick ball-movement earned the Golden Bears a three-pointer by Ivan Ikomey. The U of A could not extend their lead as a string of three-pointers by Eriq Jenkins, Nikola Farkic, and Omar Shiddo got Western right back into the game. Halfway through the second quarter, Alberta’s lead was cut to 29-22. 

A backdoor cut for a wide-open layup by Jenkins tied the game at 29. From there, Western managed to flip the lead in their favour. At the end of the half, the Mustangs were ahead 46-36

Shiddo took a deep, contested three-pointer on Western’s first possession of the third quarter, setting the pace for the second half. Farkic added a three to the Mustang’s growing lead, but a steal by Tyus Jefferson gave the Golden Bears a bit of life. Tough work in the paint by Cole Knudson and a three-pointer by Dwan Williams helped Alberta chip away at their deficit. 

With 10 minutes remaining, Western’s lead was only 61-57. The Golden Bears fought to stay in the game but Western continued to nail shots from behind the three-point line. Jefferson made a pair of jumpers in the paint to bring the Golden Bears within three. Unfortunately for Alberta, Western was too far ahead in the race and their late efforts were not enough.

The Mustangs won the game 86-72. Shiddo was especially dominant, earning a game-high 24 points.

No. 8 Calgary Dinos vs No. 1 Carleton Ravens: Ravens fly over Dinos in 2019 USports finals rematch

For the second game of the afternoon, the Carleton Ravens and Calgary Dinos met for a rematch of the 2019 championship finals. The home team and favourites to win the tournament, the Ravens were sure to make their presence known in their opening game. 

Points came slowly in the first quarter. A quick steal by Lloyd Pandi outside the perimeter turned into the first two points on the board for the Ravens. Then, Brett Layton added two of his own for the Dinos. Halfway through the opening quarter, Carleon led only 6-5. 

Things sped up in the tail end of the first, with Yasiin Joseph putting up two and Connor Vreeken making a three for the Ravens. Isaiah Osborne added a pair of threes and a layup to help Carleton take a 19-14 lead to end the first quarter. 

Noah Wharton found the three, helping Calgary chip away at the gap, but the Ravens were able to find their offensive rhythm thanks to the aggressive play by Pandi. Pandi intercepted a pass, lobbing it ahead to Osborne for the breakaway layup to make it 30-22 for Carleton with only four minutes remaining in the half. 

Another cross-court pass led to a wide-open layup for the Ravens. This time, it was Marcus Anderson who finished the play. In the final minute of the half, Anderson and Tutu fired in a pair of threes to make it 43-25 to finish the first half of play.

While the Dinos were focused on catching up, the Ravens were simply looking to extend their lead even further. Trapping a Calgary player in the corner, Carleton forced a turnover, converting into two points quickly.

Ezeoha Santiago made a three for the Dinos, but they were still down by double digits halfway through the third quarter with a score of 50-39 on the board. Calgary’s offence continued with Max Eisele finding the open lane to lay it in. 

Still, the Ravens did not let the Dinos catch up. After three quarters, Carleton was leading 61-45. 

The Ravens made sure that it was impossible for the Dinos to make up their 16 point deficit by keeping their pace up. Continuing to attack the paint and shooting from beyond the three-point line, Carleton continued to act as the dominant team. Osborne even added a three-pointer before stepping back to allow some fresh faces to finish off the game. 

In the end, the Ravens took the game 82-66 in their quest to defend their national championship title. 

Brett Layton put up 23 points in Calgary’s attempt to take down Carleton. For the Ravens, Osborne put up 21 points, while Pandi and Grebekidan each contributed 12.

No. 6 Bishop’s University Gaiters vs No. 3 UBC Thunderbirds: UBC drops triple digits on Bishop’s 

The Bishop’s Gaiters entered as the Cinderella story of the tournament after upsetting both Concordia and l’Université du Québec à Montréal in the RSEQ playoffs. Along with the team travelled most of the school’s 2,400 students, as a sea of purple was observable courtside and in the lower bowl.

For UBC, the keys to success were to not get distracted by the crowd and to keep up their fast-paced style of play.

The Thunderbirds came out firing from all cylinders and before the Gaiters could even get a point they were down by 15. Bishop tried to crawl back but was unable to go on any kind of a drive. UBC took the opening quarter by a whopping 31-13. 

The second quarter was a bit closer, with the Gaiters getting within 10 of UBC, in part due to the play of Ibrahim Ngom. The sea of purple let the chirps fly and the Gaiters actually won the quarter 15-10, but at half were still down 41-28.

UBC came back from the half unfazed and went off from the three-point line. UBC sank six three-pointers, a number of free throws, and added some jump shots to take a 75-49 lead after three quarters. The trio of Grant Audu, Jodan Cohoo, and Taylor Browne was ever-present in the third quarter and finished the game with a combined total of 56 points.      

UBC continued their domination in the fourth quarter and reached the 10- point mark late in the game against a Bishop team clearly out of their Cinderella luck. In the end, the Thunderbirds took the game 103-66.

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