After losing their last game by a score of 72–58 to U of T Law, UTM’s Division One (White) men’s team were looking to put in a better performance against Physical and Health Education. During warm-ups, the Eagles were moving quickly up and down the court and their excitement was visible. Last game, their offence had been stagnant, and they didn’t run their plays effectively enough.
The first half started slow, and for the first two minutes of the game both teams went inside to their big men. UTM power forward Harris Nvrkanovic showed off his impressive court vision with a quick pass to the cutting Zakariya Khan, who finished with an open layup at the rim. But this was the only bright spot early for the Eagles; soon, their inability to run plays was showing again.
The Eagles were running a pick-and-roll game, but PHE defended excellently against it and also forced turnovers to take an early 15–8 lead. Juan Nunez, the Eagles’ head coach, called a timeout. He expressed his disappointment at the lack of commitment to the plays and the lack of effort on defence. His exclamation sounded throughout the gym: “Just run the plays we practiced!”
The Eagles didn’t improve much after the timeout; they were still stagnant on offence, and PHE responded by knocking down three straight three-pointers to make it 24–15 by the time there was 5:25 left in the first half.
But these three-pointers seemed to wake up the Eagles’ defence. Point guards Khan and Juan Ariado pushed the ball down the court every chance they got, and with effective rebounding from centre Jeff Thorpe, UTM was able to end the half on a 24–5 run and head to a half-time with a score of 39–29.
The second half started off the same way the first half ended, with the Eagles pushing the ball and playing a strong defence. PHE visibly grew frustrated with their lack of penetration and their inability to get rebounds. The coach-less team called a timeout two minutes into the second half to rally each other and cut into UTM’s lead, which had now grown to 10 points.
To their credit, UTM played exceptionally well at the beginning of the n second half. They continued pushing the ball, and with passing from Khan, both Thorpe and Nvrkanovic were getting rebounds above the PHE players. UTM had a 52–38 lead with 7:32 left in the second half.
But the lead affected UTM’s play; their offence stood still, shots weren’t falling, and PHE increased their defensive pressure. PHE was gained possession of the ball, and with strong driving from their point guard and power forward, they got to the free throw line and cut down the lead to only five points.
With the score at 61–56 and 3:25 left, Nunez called another timeout. After the timeout, UTM guards Ariado and Khan were able to hold on to the ball and get to the free throw line to hold off a comeback, sealing the win at 73–62.
“We are not playing to our potential yet,” said Khan, whose score of 12 points was the highest on his team, after the game. “We had a tournament on the weekend where we played against better opposition, and we played with an intensity that we aren’t used to. We need to get our defensive intensity up, and sooner or later, when we get it together, we’ll be tough to beat. The guys are coming together and we’re getting to be more of a team.”
Thorpe commented, “We played well, built up a lot of momentum at the end of the first half, but we got complacent. We should have won the game by more.”
“They have a lot of potential, looked unsure at the beginning; second half, things got better,” said Chris Thompson, the president of UTMSU and a former UTM white player. “They’re my old team, so I want to see them do better. I know they can play a lot better than they played today.”
“We are working hard and I feel like we are going to come out in the end. We played hard and I’m happy with the end result,” said Nunez.