The Golden Bears basketball team continued their trend of inconsistent play in their first series of the new year, splitting their series with the University of Victoria Vikes.
The series was a back and forth affair, as the Bears followed up a 71-51 blowout with a close 66-60 loss on Saturday.
“Canada West’s play is filled with split series,” said Craddock. “It’s the nature of playing a team back-to-back nights. The team that lost Friday always seems to have the extra energy and motivation the following night.”
Friday’s win was characterized by a fiery start for the Bears, who mounted a 20-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. From that point on, their lead was never in doubt. The Bears starters were hot from all over the court, combining for over 50 per cent shooting from the field with seven of the team’s 10 three-pointers. As has been the case for most of the season, the team was led in scoring by third-year swingman Mamadou Gueye with 18 points, while chipping in five rebounds and three assists. Currently, Gueye leads the Bears in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, and sits second on the team with 7.5 rebounds per game.
Saturday’s game saw the Bears in a hole early, facing a 10-2 deficit halfway through the first quarter. While they were able to take the lead by the second quarter, the game was in Victoria’s hands for almost the entire second half. After the Vikes stretched the lead to 12 with just over five minutes left in the game, the Bears cut the lead to three with 1:23 left, but the Vikes held on and secured a win.
Gueye once again led the Bears in scoring, pouring in 16 points, while also pulling in nine boards in the loss. Craddock noted the team’s inexperience and how that played into the team’s different performance in the second game.
“Only when teams are veteran and consistent can they start to put those peak performances out on back-to-back nights,”said Craddock. “We are young and need to learn how to perform more consistently.”
The split brings Alberta to 5-6 on the season with another nine games left before playoffs. With about half of the season still to come, Craddock believes he can get more out of his team down the stretch.
“We have so many first and second-year players this year that we are hopeful to be better as the season goes on and they gain more experience,” he said.
The Bears travel to Brandon next week for two games with the 0-10 Bobcats, but despite their record coach Craddock does not see them as a pushover.
“Any road trip is a difficult one in Canada West. Brandon has some very skilled players, a tough schedule and has been unlucky in a few games so far this season,” Craddock said.
“Winning one game in Brandon will be a tough challenge. If we have aspirations of winning both games we will to play better basketball than we have in back-to-back evenings so far this season.”
The Golden Bears clash with the Bobcats on Jan. 22 and 23.