The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team turned in an airtight defensive performance on opening night, smothering the Saskatchewan Huskies 59-50 at the Envision Athletic Centre on Friday.
In the Canada West regular-season opener for both teams, the Cascades (1-0) limited the Huskies (0-1) to 27.1 per cent shooting from the field and won the rebounding battle 48-39 to earn a gritty home-court win.
UFV’s Vijay Dhillon counted four three-pointers among his team-high 17 points, and fellow fifth-year guard Manny Dulay also scored in double figures with 10 points. Centre Nav Bains had a tremendous all-around performance with eight points, six assists and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Shane Osayande paced Saskatchewan with 18 points and 13 boards, while Matt Forbes registered nine points.
The two teams clash again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Envision Athletic Centre.
“You’re always happy to come away with the win,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen noted afterward. “Defensively, I think we did a pretty good job. They missed some shots they can definitely make, and tomorrow could look like a totally different game. But tonight, the guys had a lot of energy and heart. They really wanted it, and it showed.”
Both teams started slowly offensively – five minutes in, the score was tied 4-4. The Cascades found their collective shooting stroke, though, and ended the first quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 15-9 lead.
Dhillon hit a trio of treys in the second quarter as the Cascades extended their advantage to 32-19 at the break, and the lead ballooned to 20 points midway through the third quarter following a huge two-handed dunk by Bains and a transition three-pointer by Dhillon.
The Cascades’ offence slowed in the fourth quarter, and the Huskies got back to within 12 points after Trevor Severinski swished a corner trey with 3:04 left in regulation. But Denver Sparks-Guest answered on the next UFV possession, draining a tough contested triple with the shot clock winding down, and Saskatchewan never truly threatened again.
The Huskies’ shooting struggles were comprehensive – in addition to hitting just 27.1 per cent of their attempts from the field (16-for-59), they shot 18.2 per cent from beyond the arc (4-for-22) and 56.0 per cent from the free throw line (14-for-25).
The Cascades didn’t shoot the ball terribly well themselves – 39.3 per cent from the field – but in addition to harassing the Huskies defensively, their strong showing on the boards prevented the visitors from generating many second-chance points.
“We just hustled,” reasoned fourth-year centre Bains, who authored one of the most complete games of his Cascades career. “We stuck to our game plan, played good defence in the post. We kept it simple, and that’s what got us the win.”
“I really liked the determination and desire to get stops,” Friesen echoed. “Defensively, that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful at that end of the floor. We’re not the most athletic or the tallest, but we have some smart players who play together and really play with a lot of heart and communicate with one another.”