© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Jonathan Cooper of the UPEI Panthers drives to the hoop against the St. F.X. X-Men during AUS men’s basketball action at UPEI Sunday.
The UPEI Panthers snapped their three-game losing streak Sunday afternoon, romping to a 100-76 win over the St. F.X. X-Men in Atlantic University Sport basketball action.
UPEI has now moved into a tie for third place with Acadia.
Manock Lual scored 22 points and added nine rebounds to lead the Panthers (7-3). Terrance Brown chipped in 20 and Donathan Moss added 18.
Jermaine Duke picked up yet another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
St. F.X. forward Jeremy Dunn led all scorers with 24 points.
However, the second-ranked team in the country played with only seven players as seven others, including leading scorer Terry Thomas, served a one-game suspension for violating team rules earlier this week.
Both Dunn and guard Will Donkoh played the entire 40 minutes for St. F.X.
Donkoh chipped in 22 points in the loss as the X-Men fell to 7-2.
“They went out on a night three days before the game, and that’s against team rules,” said St. F.X. head coach Steve Konchalski, now in his 37th season. “We have a team rule that says within three days of a game, you’re not allowed to go out. You’re not allowed to go out to a pub. You’re not allowed to go anywhere.”
It was a full house at the Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre for the Panthers first home game of 2012.
Included in the bleachers was the all-new Cage Crew, made up of 40-plus students dressed in green T-shirts and sporting face paint.
Head coach Tim Kendrick was enthused by the fan support.
“We love it here,” he said post-game. “This is where we play our best — at home. Big crowd today . . . we were ready to roll. We’re not used to that losing stuff. We didn’t like that, and we were ready to roll today. We needed this win.”
His team played energetic back-and-forth basketball, and went into the half up 57-39.
It was clear the Panthers had regained their swagger, with Moss beating his chest after drawing a foul on a good layup, and Lual pumping his fist after draining an open three.
The Panthers shot 45 per cent from the field, and Kendrick said that was the difference.
“Our kids came out and played hard like we always do,” he said. “But today we shot the ball better. We did a better job offensively and the score indicates that.”
UPEI led by as many as 32 points and finished the game with bench players Rickyle Beals, Devin Ezekiel, Matt McKenna, Ollen Smith and Andrew Clark on the floor.
Lual, a team co-captain, said the win is exactly what the Panthers needed.
“It’s big,” he said. “We were playing for a while and things just weren’t clicking. Shots weren’t falling, but we were still playing really hard. Right now, it’s great to come, get a win, and start the whole run again.”
As for the depleted X-Men roster, Lual said it didn’t matter.
“We’re basketball players. We come ready to play every game,” he said. “We just came out ready to play. I feel like the next time we play them, we’re going to come out with the same mindset and hopefully get the same results.”
Konchalski, who broke the 800-win plateau earlier this season, praised Kendrick for turning around the Panthers’ fortunes so quickly into his tenure at UPEI.
“Tim Kendrick is an excellent coach,” he told The Guardian. “He’s turned the program around almost overnight because he’s changed the attitude. He’s made them believe in each other and he’s using their athleticism at both ends of the court.”
UPEI will host the UNB Varsity Reds Friday at 8 p.m. game.
On Saturday, the Panthers will be on the road in Dalhousie to take on the Tigers. Game time is 8 p.m.