Saturday evening, the SFU men’s basketball team won their first game of the year. The victory ended the seven-game losing streak that has plagued the team in the new year.
Playing against the Saint Martin’s University (SMU) Saints, guard Justin Cole opened up the scoring, putting the Clan on the board first. This quickly became a trend, as Cole not only led both sides of the court in scoring with 25 points overall, but also in three-pointers with a total of five.
Another player to make an early impression was forward Mathijs van der Mars. Although his scoring was limited to the six points he achieved in the early first half, his two straight field goals — including one on a breakaway — helped SFU build a solid lead.
The Clan went into halftime with a 53–44 lead. However, the Saints were far from out of the game, and began the second half with a strong pushback effort that resulted in a tie game at 58 points each.
This tie was short-lived, though, as the Clan quickly pulled back ahead. SFU did not allow another a tie in points after the 59-point mark.
The Clan did allow the Saints a few too many free throws, with 41 in all compared to SFU’s 26.
With just over two minutes left, guard Sango Niang was called for a foul outside the three-point line — an offence which gave SMU three free throws. When head coach James Blake voiced his displeasure with the call, he was given a technical foul worth two free throws. This inspired some vocal critics in the crowd including athletics director Milt Richards, and was a decision that left Blake upset.
“I told [the ref] after the game, ‘You’ve got to give me a warning. I don’t swear, I don’t curse at officials, I just stand there with my hands up like this. You’ve got to come over and say there was a bench warning and we’ll move on from there,’” Blake said after the game. “If I continue to be ignorant, I understand the technical. But again, if it comes down to a win or loss on a technical, that’s my fault.”
In all, this added up to five free throws for the Saints — of which they made four, putting them down by only three at 86–83. It certainly looked like a precarious situation for the Clan.
However, as the game neared its final minute, the tide once again turned in SFU’s favour. It seemed that with every play, SMU was called for a foul — totalling seven in the last two minutes — allowing the Clan to coast to their first win of 2015.
With a final score of 97–87, the Clan did not break the three-digit mark, and fell short of their high scoring average of 113.8 points per game — an average achieved mostly in December that has been steadily dropping since.
But in light of the well-deserved win and its exciting, down-to-the-wire finish, you would be hard-pressed to find a fan complaining. Coach Blake expressed his relief that the team had finally snapped out of their post-Christmas slump.
“It felt great. It’s been a little bit of a problem for us over the last four years, that after the exam break [. . .] we can’t figure it out until February,” he said. “So as far as progress [goes], we actually got a game in January and we’re home next weekend before the end of the month, so this is a good step for us to move forward.
Guard Hidde Vos, an NCAA Division I transfer in the midst of his first season with the Clan, is confident that if the Clan can play the way they did Saturday, they can string together some wins.
“We just did whatever we could to get a win,” he told The Peak. “As long as we play as a team and have good ball movement [. . .] we can win a lot more games.”