DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
The Winnipeg Wesmen put it in cruise halfway down the road Friday night but got things steered straight to narrowly avoid a catastrophe against the Mount Royal Cougars.
The Wesmen men's basketball team built up a 26-point lead before the Cougars game storming back to tie it late in the fourth quarter only to be bailed out by a Narcisse Ambanza run-stopping 3 in a 77-72 Canada West conference contest at the Duckworth Centre.
The Wesmen (9-8) were rolling for most of the first half, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter and putting up 50 points in the first half. The Wesmen, however, scored the same amount of points in the entirety of the second half — 27 — as they did in that first quarter that staked them a considerable edge.
"We gave up too many easy buckets at the defensive end of the floor," UWinnipeg head coach Mike Raimbault said. "So they were scoring and they were building some confidence and we got a little bit casual and they almost stole the game.
"I thought we definitely got away from the things that we did well in the first half. We weren't moving, we weren't at the same pace offensively or defensively and when you dial it down a small percentage we're not that good."
Will Sesay had 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to lead the Wesmen in the next-to-last home game of his five-year career. Don Dayrit had 16 points, and Billy Yaworsky and Adam Benrabah 10 apiece.
The Wesmen, one of the best offensive-rebounding teams in the conference, had 17 and 48 in total.
Winnipeg was up 14 with 6:47 to play but watched the Cougars (3-14) put together a 17-4 run over the next 5:38 to tie the game at 71. Ambanza, however, hit a pull-up three from the right wing to restore the Wesmen lead and would hit three more free throws down the stretch to seal it.
"I thought we were much more aggressive," MRU head coach Marc Dobell said. "We had that conversation at halftime that we were way too passive offensively and defensively. I thought we were way more aggressive in the second half and did a much better job on the boards and allowed us to get back in the basketball game."
The Cougars got 18 points from Adam Pahl, 15 from Nate Petrone, 13 from Moreau Amadou and 10 from Holt Tomie.
Winnipeg held MRU to 3-for-15 shooting from three and 44 per cent from the field.
The Wesmen shot 35.8 per cent from the field and were 8 of 27 from three.