‘Most-improved’ Bears host rival Dinos in pivotal series
The League-leading Alberta Golden Bears are in their den on Thursday to tip-off the 2nd half of the Canada West season against the arch-rival Calgary Dinos. This is truly a pivotal series, featuring Top 10 teams for whom this as a ‘war of attrition’ (No prisoners, no niceties, no mutual – admiration). Both teams have designs on a top rung play-off seed, but a sweep may be necessary here for either to accomplish that task. The Dinos, on their way to home court for last season’s Final 4, won both ends of this ‘traditional’ home and home last year. UC also eliminated Alberta 2 straight in the playoff quarter-finals last March.
But the #8 ranked Bears, the most improved team in CW, have everyone’s attention with their unblemished record. Their stingy defense combined with hot shooting stats (#2 in FG%, #1 in 3 pt%) now make them a formidable foe. The addition of 3rd year import guard, Austin Waddoups (15 ppg/4 rebs/ 3.5 asst) , has given them another dimension on offense, with his 55% outside shooting, and slashing moves to the hoop. U of A still has the duo of Brody Clarke and Mamadou Gueye up front, both scoring 15 ppg+ and claiming 7.5 and 7 rebs / game respectively. 4th year UBC transfer, Geoff Pippus, and 2nd year wing, Ivan Ikomey (Calgary-McNally) are 2 more 50% + shooters from 3 point range. The Bears spread the scoring, rebound as a team, and feature a ‘hybrid defense’ which forces tough shots from opponents.
Calgary is the highest scoring team in Canada West, and want to play at a ‘break-neck pace’. The Dinos lean heavily on the touch of League scoring leader, Thomas Cooper (25.6 ppg, 6 rebs), the 5th year wing from Chattanooga, TN. Cooper has fellow 6-5 wing, Mambi Diawara (14 ppg, 6 rebs) creating more space, and two-way spark-plug , David Kapinga (10 ppg/4.9 asst/ 2 steals) making big plays. Depth is Calgary’s calling card, with 6-8 Lars Schleuter a big 3 point threat along with 6-7 Dallas Karch, and Kapinga. UC’s 4- man post rotation, led by 6-7 Connor Foreman and 6-7 Matt Ellis, will battle for inside control. Much on the line, even at this mid-point in the schedule. Who gets hot, and who can slow down the opposition scorers? Who can finish at ‘crunch time’ ?
Canada West Schedule – Jan. 5-7
To refresh your memory –
There are several other intriguing match-ups in this opening weekend for 2017. The 8-0 UBC Thunderbirds fly out to Saskatoon to play the 5-3 Saskatchewan Huskies … the UVic Vikes (2-6) are at Kamloops to play the 5-5 TRU Wolf Pack … UNBC (4-6), fresh off a solid Holiday tournament in Montreal are in Lethbridge to challenge the 6-4 Pronghorns.
Thursday, Jan 5 –
#3 Calgary Dinos at #8 Alberta Golden Bears
Friday, Jan 6 –
#2 UBC at Saskatchewan , Trinity Western at Winnipeg, UNBC at Lethbridge Pronghorns,
Brandon at Mt. Royal, Victoria at Thompson Rivers, Regina at UBC-O,
MacEwan at Fraser Valley
Saturday, Jan 7 –
Bears at Dinos, T’Birds at Huskies, Vikes at Wolf Pack, T’Wolves at’Horns
Bobcats at MRU, Spartans at Wesmen, R. Cougars at Heat, Griffins at Cascades
- This is a rivalry … from the days of taking the old ‘Day-Liner’ train from downtown Calgary to downtown Edmonton. The ‘60s saw Gary Smith vs Skip Morgan, and Bears vet Barry Mitchelson threatening a skinny Dinos rookie to “stay out of the key”. Calgary’s Tom Bishop and Alberta’s Doug Baker ‘firing at will’, and Ted Hellard banging with Dave Holland in the 70s! U of A Coach, Don Horwood, matching wits with Dinos boss, Gary Howard, for so many seasons. Play-off series drama in 2003 with Alberta coming back at home in game 3, then the next year, the Dinos do the same in Calgary on their way to a Canada West title. More to come ….
- Classes don’t get start again for these schools until Januray 9. “There’s some pluses and minuses”, says Dinos Assistant, Matt Skinn. “The guys kind of feel a bit like a pro team, with the ‘Holiday schedule’.”
- The Thursday game at the Saville Centre in S. Edmonton starts at 8 pm, with live coverage on Canada West TV The return bout is Saturday at 7 pm at the Jack Simpson Gym at UC.