The UTM men’s basketball White team will enter the Christmas holiday at pole position on the University of Torono standings after their seventh consecutive win of the season.
After giving a strong performance in the second half, UTM White defeated the UTSC Maroons 66-36 last Wednesday at the RAWC to take the first seed in Division 1 with a 7-0 record.
After having given a string of exhilarating performances this season, Jeff Thorpe once again appeared in the Eagles’ starting lineup and eventually led them to victory in their last game of the fall semester.
The game began at an aggressive and quick pace that lasted through the first half. Thorpe was the dominant figure in the Maroons’ paint, grabbing numerous rebounds to return possession to the offence.
Marked by three defenders on the opposing team after only three minutes, Thorpe caught the ball again and laid it off to Miguel Bediones, who rounded one defender through a faked jump shot before scoring from close range. Thorpe was also present on the opposite side of the court, where UTSC’s offence were having a difficult time netting their layups, and Thorpe was catching many of the rebounds. After only six minutes, UTM was leading the match 8-0.
The Eagles’ Zak Khan also started the game off well. Khan stole possession from the Maroons and burst into their half to beat three opposing defenders and score on a layup. Moments later, he gave an assist to UTM’s Paolo Militar, who took his chance to score the basket ahead of two defenders.
Afterwards, Bediones continued his strong start with a steal before passing the ball to Khan, who was situated at the head of a counterattack by the Eagles and managed to net a three-pointer. Swift UTM counterattacks and a lack of creativity from the UTSC offence gave the Eagles a lead of 15-6 in the first 10 minutes of the game.
With 10 minutes left in the first half, the Maroons took a more agile stance in offence. UTSC’s Rahman Saleh grabbed a rebound, rounded UTM’s paint, and was unmarked when he took an open shot from close range. The Maroons’ William Babatunde then rounded UTM’s Joshua Codinera and Militar to finish his brilliant solo effort with a well-made layup. UTSC climbed back up to make the score 15-10. But with only four minutes on the clock in the first half, the Eagles’ defence remained solid. They consistently shut down Babatunde when he had possession and forced Saleh to create a turnover. In the last minute, Thorpe made a terrific block before assisting Khan, who, again unmarked, netted a layup to end the first half 25-19.
The second half saw complete and utter domination by the UTM squad. Codinera made a smart steal from behind a UTSC defender and passed the ball across the court to a sprinting Khan, who scored one of his many clutch layups. With 13 minutes to go, the Eagles chose to play at a slower tempo in offence capitalize on set plays. Khan was more often open in the paint and scored more often. He also gave Militar an incredible cross-court assist after UTSC’s offence failed to net the ball four times in a row.
David Dai also put his name on the scoresheet with 10 minutes to go by dribbling past three defenders to score. Harris Nurkanovic came off the bench to replace Thorpe in the last 10 minutes and, like his teammate, kept UTM’s defence stable while pushing his team’s offence as well.
UTSC appeared to give up hope of a comeback, being down 53-23 with seven minutes remaining. They continually lost the ball to UTM’s offence and their spirits were visibly lower than in the first half. UTM went on to win by a margin of 30 points.
“The guys played a well-orchestrated and intensive second half; it was a great team effort,” said Juan Nunez, UTM’s head coach. “We wanted the win more than they did. This performance gives us reason to hope for a title to [come] to UTM at the end of the academic year.”
UTM White’s dominating performance has given them a perfect record at the end of the fall term. They’ll be back in action on January 8, taking on the Maroons again at UTSC.
This article was initially credited to Eric Hewitson by mistake. A notice will be printed in the December 2, 2013 issue.