Men’s basketball put up fight despite collapsing twice
This isn’t the Tigers basketball team you recognize from last season.
There’s no sign of superstars Simon Farine or Joseph Schow running the show. Neither is Sandy Veit, Juleous Grant or Peter Leighton available to round out what was probably Dalhousie’s top six players.
Instead, the Tigers are saying hello to last year’s bench.
And what a welcome they received, opening the regular season this past week with two respectable performances at the Dalplex, although they would lose both. Dal narrowly dropped their season opener 71 – 68 to Acadia, unable to sink a buzzer-beater Nov. 9, and then on Nov. 12 the Tigers defence broke down opposite St. FX to lose 85 – 71.
Tigers head coach John Campbell knows his fresh-faced outfit needs a new identity now that its veteran core is gone.
“We’re a much different team from a physical standpoint, we’re a much different team from a skill set standpoint and even from a personality standpoint, so for us it’s about finding out what we have to do to be effective.”
Late heroics fail
The reigning AUS champion Tigers would take until the final seconds of their regular season opener to concede a 71 – 68 defeat to the Axemen.
Dal was a basket away from tying after a foolish five-second throw-in violation by the Axemen presented the Tigers the ball with 8.9 seconds left in the game. Dal guard Stephen Lopez was handed the ball off the inbound but could not release a clean shot, leaving the Axemen on the preferred side of the scoreline.
Robert Nortmann was 7-of-10 from field goal range, leading the Tigers with 17 points. Four other players sporting the black and gold had 10 or more points. The Axemen relied on rookie C. Tyler Scott in the win, sinking an impressive 23 points, nine higher than his closest teammate, Owen Klassen.
The Tigers clamoured throughout the game to get ahead of the Axemen, but were often just a few points away. In the third quarter, however, Dal held the advantage for a majority of the frame.
Dal defence slumps
In the Tigers’ next game last Saturday, the black and gold didn’t appear too interested in another fight.
After an offensive frenzy in the first quarter that saw the Tigers only down by a basket, the gap would, unfortunately for the home crowd, expand as the team’s defence fell apart against St. FX.
Dal may have lost 85 – 71, but it appears the team may have found their best bet to make Tigers fans ask: Simon who? Nortmann cast his name into the discussion as he was nothing short of sensational, sinking 30 points and nine boards.
Despite his individual dominance, Nortmann wasn’t pleased with how his team fell apart, at least in comparison to their tightly fought match opposite Acadia.
“We played defence that game. That’s the difference. The difference in this game is that we weren’t focused. We came up for the first half, we were ready to play, but in the second half we weren’t ready at all,” said Nortmann. “That’s the main thing right there.”
St. FX player of the game Terry Thomas noticed the change from a capable Tigers defence to a the sloppy shadow of its former self as the game progressed.
“What changed is that we didn’t give them second chances. We put a body on them and kept with them because they were really hustling,” he said.
Thomas’ 19 points was top on the scoresheet for his team. Jeremy Dunn and Rodrigo Madera each added 15. Aside from Nortmann, Alexander Arthur was the only other Dal player to have above 10 points, shooting 14 in just 20 minutes of play.
For a team that claimed an AUS banner last spring, Campbell explained there will be some growing pains.
“Our record obviously isn’t very good [right now], and this is a team that is used to winning so we’re trying to find some solutions to that,” Campbell said. “We need to start getting some tangible results as opposed to just playing well. We need to start winning some basketball games to stay positive.”