Panthers put pressure on their opponents

Jason Malloy
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UPEI Panthers guard Will Caesar goes in for a layup during practice earlier this week. The Panthers like to pressure the ball and score in transition.

UPEI men’s basketball team finds success in trusting its system

The UPEI Panthers score in bunches, fuelled by cleaning up the offensive glass and picking the opposition’s pocket.

“Pressure is a huge part of our game,” said forward Geoff Doane.

It has resulted in the men’s basketball team leading the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) in steals per game at nearly 12 per contest.

Hard work and dedication to detail are part of the equation, guard Ellis FFrench added.

“We do it a lot too, so I like to think we’re getting pretty good at it and knowing how to pick our spots and pick our moments,” he said.

The premise behind the system is pressuring the ball will lead to turnovers and high percentage scoring chances for the Panthers.  While the system isn’t for everybody, Panthers’ coach Tim Kendrick has used it successfully with high school-age students in the past and has three third-place finishes in three seasons at helm of the Panthers.

It does have side effects. Breaking the pressure often leads to high percentage shots for opponents and UPEI gave up 85 points per game, third most in the country.

But Kendrick said it’s about scoring more than the opponent — not holding them to a certain level of points.

“You have to trust (the system) and you have to believe in it and we do,” he said.

The system can lead to scoring in waves. It became apparent during a game earlier this season when the Panthers trailed by 10 going to the fourth and ended up winning by 10.

“We kept telling our players trust, trust,” Kendrick said. “We know (the run is) coming, keep playing, keep playing.”

The team’s personnel of athletic players fit the system well and its depth enables it to pressure as often as it does.

“We have very good players that work very hard,” Kendrick said.

He said there are lots of intricacies to its game plan.

“There’s a lot more to this system than people would ever believe,” the coach said.

It includes multiple forms of pressures, zone and man-to-man defences.

UPEI also lead the country in offensive rebounding. It had 25 alone in its final game of the season with St. F.X. to match the number of defensive boards it had during the contest.

And they do it without a dominating big man inside doing the lion’s share of the heavy lifting. Doane and Donathan (Donnie) Moss are tied for the team lead at 2.2 offensive rebounds a game.

“We need to be very aggressive in our thinking,” Kendrick said. “We talk about it every single practice. We talk about it before every single game.”

Offensive rebounding and steals are key to the Panthers’ success this weekend at the AUS championship in Halifax.

The quest begins tonight when the Panthers play the Cape Breton Capers at 8 p.m. at the Halifax Metro Centre.

“They’re very well coached and they’re big and they’re bigs are good,” Kendrick said. “I think we have to do a really good job on our defensive glass. We need to keep them from getting second shots.”

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Team Rankings

The UPEI Panthers lead the Canadian Interuniversity Sport  in a few categories. Here is a look at some of their rankings:

First

u Field goals attempted per game, 77.1.

u Free throws attempted per game, 27.8.

u Offensive rebounds per game, 17.2.

u Steals per game, 11.8.

Second

u Free throws made per game, 19.4.

Third

u Points per game, 88.6.

Fifth

u Field goals made per game, 31.2.

u Total rebounds per game, 42.2.

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AUS Awards

The Atlantic University Sport men’s basketball awards were announced Thursday.

u MVP – Owen Klassen, Acadia.

u Rookie of the year – Javon Masters, UNB.

u Defensive player of the year – Klassen.

u Coach of the year – Stephen Baur, Acadia.

u Student-athlete community service award – Harry Ezenibe, Saint Mary’s.

u First team all-stars -

Klassen, Masters, Deontay (D.J.) Smith, UPEI; Theon Reefer, Saint Mary’s; and Will Donkoh, St. F.X.

u Second team all-stars -

Boyd Vassell, Saint Mary’s; Vasilije Curcic, Memorial; Anthony Sears, Acadia; Anthony Ashe, Acadia; and Geoff Doane, UPEI.

u All-rookie team -

Masters, Kevin Bercy, St. F.X.; Davion Parnsalu, Memorial; Julius Antoine, St. F.X.; and Gianmarco Luciani, Acadia.

Organizations: Panthers, CIS, Halifax Metro Centre

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