It was a great first day of games at the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Championship. All were relatively close — until the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s basketball team overwhelmed the Memorial University Sea-Hawks from the first basket at Scotiabank Centre on Feb. 24.
Just moments after spectators got to their seats, they rose after a two-hand slam from Malcolm Christie. These were the first points of the game for the second-year player from Fredericton N.B., who recorded 21 points for the Tigers and earned himself player of the game honours in the quarterfinal matchup.
The Tigers quickly went on a 22-point run and never looked back, winning 87-48 to book a date with the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers in the conference semifinal on Saturday night.
Christie said he feels great for how he affected the game but is already looking to move on from the quarterfinal.
“This is what we work for all year,” he said. “It’s just the first game, so I’d like to keep it up. It felt good; we just set the tone. It’s a team thing, but it feels good when you come out like that.”
Christie credited the win to a lot of things, but mainly the defence for the Tigers’ success against Memorial.
“I think someone said it was the first time coach [Plato] didn’t take a timeout in the second half in his whole career,” said the young guard. “It really all comes back to the defence — we hit some shots, but that all opened up from the defence.”
Shamar Burrows, a fifth-year veteran, already knows what to adjust in time for Dal’s matchup with the conference’s number two team: limit turnovers from travels in upcoming games.
“We had a few offensive lapses, so we need to watch film and see what we can do to better that situation,” said Burrows.
UPEI up next in semis
Head coach Rick Plato — even without the second-half timeouts — wasn’t keen on celebrating too much. He said his team had “30 minutes to celebrate, then we got to start thinking about P.E.I.”
The six-time AUS champion coach will look for his fourth straight title.
“I told the boys back in September, and with a little bit of luck, I think this team can win a national championship,” Plato said. The U SPORTS Final 8 Men’s Basketball Championships are on the same court at Scotiabank Centre from March 10-12. The Saint Francis Xavier University X-Men host nationals.
Plato gives UPEI’s Elijah Miller — the 2022-2023 AUS MVP — credit for being the best player in the conference and said he has “the heart of a lion.” He knows what the Panthers are capable of too, knowing they aren’t the same team Dal usurped in last year’s AUS championship game, coming from behind in an 84-78 victory to win the banner.
But when they last met in February? The Panthers dominated, winning 72-49. Miller had 17 points.
In a way, both teams are looking for revenge on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
“They kicked our ass when we went up there [last time].”