By Thomas Becker
The Saint Mary's Huskies made a statement Friday night that they're the team to beat in the AUS, as they handed the Panthers an 83-68 loss.
The Huskies' top players delivered as expected. Nikita Kasongo poured in a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Nico Brauner and Kemar Alleyne chipped in with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Offence aside, it was their smothering defence that really left a mark. Through three quarters the Panthers (3-2) were held to just 28.3 per cent from the field. That average bumped up to 31.3 after Saint Mary's (4-0) rested their starters for most of the fourth.
"Other than the last five minutes, I thought we applied pretty good pressure and communicated well on switches," said Huskies head coach Jonah Taussig. "Our goal is to try to make every shot tough and contested."
Guards Alleyne and Amin Suleman went mano-a-mano with each drilling a pair of threes in the opening minutes. Brent Martindale's ability on the glass paid dividends for the Huskies, as he scored four second chance points to help his team take a 13-8 advantage midway through the first.
After the Panthers tied it up, the Huskies attacked the rim with authority and scored four consecutive layups and capped off a 12-2 run with an uncontested dunk by Qyemah Gibson. They'd take a 25-15 lead into the second.
Brauner found his rhythm in the second and scored eight consecutive points, including back-to-back triples to extend the lead 35-18. UPEI cut it back down to 11 before Brauner connected on his third triple of the quarter to propel Saint Mary's into halftime up 47-32. The fourth-year point guard scored 12 of his 16 points in the quarter.
"He has the ability to do that," Taussig said of his veteran guard. "Once he hits one or two shots, he starts feeling pretty good and you can count on one or two more."
The Panthers came out of the half strong and trimmed the deficit to 10 thanks to an old fashioned three-point effort by Suleman. The Huskies responded with a powerful 9-0 run that pushed their lead back up to 19, 56-37. That run seemed to break the back of the Panthers, who couldn't recover from the large deficit.
Saint Mary's went into the fourth ahead 67-45 and as they continued to extend the lead, both teams went deep to their bench as the game quickly became out of reach for the home team.
UPEI outscored their opponent 23-16 in the fourth quarter, but the damage was already done as they dropped their second game in a row 83-68.
"We have a pretty good team here," Taussig said. "We're deep team and we feel if we can hold our own on the glass then we're going to have a good chance to win."
The two teams will battle it out again on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan