WINNIPEG, MB. – A tie-breaker games was need in the annual Duckworth Challenge between the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg.
The U of M Bisons basketball team lost the tie-breaker at home to the U of W Wesmen 94-67, meaning the U of W is this year’s Duckworth Challenge champions.
The Wesmen’s victory on Friday at Investors Group Athletic Centre comes as an upset. The Bisons have the stronger record, which has now fallen to 10-7. Meanwhile, the Wesmen’s record gets bumped to 6-9.
With the Duckworth Challenge tied at 2-2, and the soccer match’s score ending in a tie, the Wesmen needed to win Friday’s game by at least five points to earn the trophy.
“We were just mentally very soft,” said Bisons Head Coach Kirby Schepp. “I didn’t see any positives tonight, just hopefully we learn from it.”
Bisons fifth-year guard Justus Alleyn, and his fellow veteran Joey Nitychoruk (who sat out with a shoulder injury), were honoured for their university basketball careers before Friday’s game.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Alleyn. “I won’t associate this one game with my experience at U of M. It’s just a stop on the road. [Winnipeg] can have tonight, but at the end of it we’ll come out on top.”
When asked favourite memory from his time at U of M Alleyn said, “I don’t have one yet. It’ll be at the end of this year when we win a championship.”
In the final regular season home game of his career, Alleyn led the way for the Herd with 22 points. He was awarded the Duckworth Challenge Player of the Game for Manitoba.
Bisons forward James Wagner played his first game back after being injured over the holiday break. He didn’t look as though he had missed any time, consistently driving to the basket with authority. Wagner put up a total 13 points and five rebounds.
After trailing by a significant margin for the entirety of the first half, Bisons guard Rashawn Browne drained a three-point buzzer beater going into halftime. The shot narrowed the gap to two points.
At the end of the third-quarter, the Bisons were trailing by 13 with one second on the clock. Wagner inbounded the ball on the sideline to second-year guard Keiran Zziwa. Zziwa drained a deep three-point buzzer beater to chop the lead to ten.
Despite the electrifying buzzer beater shots, the Wesmen had all the momentum through the fourth quarter. They outscored the Bisons 27-10.
The Wesmen’s effort was led by fourth-year forward Denzel Lynch-Blair. He posted 31 points for the visitors. Lynch-Blair’s performance earned him the Duckworth Challenge Player of the Game for the Wesmen.
Both teams play again on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT at the University of Winnipeg Duckworth Centre.
Amber Doyle, Bison Sports for Manitoba Post