The UNB Varsity Reds men’s basketball team is heating up at the right time.
The Varsity Reds picked up eight points this past weekend, defeating the Cape Breton Capers 79-63 on Friday at the Richard J. Currie Center and the UPEI Panthers 96-75 on Saturday in Charlottetown. The two victories pushed UNB into first place in the Atlantic University Standings with seven games remaining on their regular season schedule. The V-Reds have also won four straight games.
After posting a season low 16 points in a loss against Cape Breton back in November, Javon Masters rebounded nicely on Friday by scoring a team high 34 points.
“They’re very tough. We lost to them once already at their place so it was a tough one,” said Masters following the victory. “We knew we had to come here, bring more energy and execute better than them because we know that they’re a really good team and they’re really sound defensively.
“Back over there, I wasn’t being really aggressive; I was just being passive. I felt like, once the game started today I had to be aggressive, get to the free throw line, set up my teammates and start getting my shots to fall.”
The Varsity Reds got off to a slow start and trailed 9-0 just a few minutes in. UNB slowly got things going and trailed by five at the end of the first quarter. In the second, a couple three balls from Jordan Irvine led the Reds to a 35-34 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, a late run by UNB put them up 62-45 heading into the fourth. The V-Reds led by as much as 24 in the final quarter and ultimately won by 16.
“In the first half, we didn’t really bring any defensive energy,” said Masters, who went 11-12 from the free throw line. “But I think in the second half, once we got defensive rebounds and then we started to run I think we opened up the game a bit and ended with a 16-point win — which was really good for us.”
Irvine finished the game with 15 points and went 3-7 from downtown. Nikola Mandic chipped in with 12 points and 13 rebounds while Ryan Smith had nine points. Masters said they were key to UNB’s victory.
“It’s good when those guys start hitting shots because then [the opposing team] can’t really focus in on me; they have to focus on them. So it’s really good that they’re starting to hit shots. We wouldn’t be here without those guys, they are really the glue of our team both offensively and defensively.”
As big as Friday’s win was over the Capers, Saturday’s road victory over the Panthers was huge. UPEI entered the game in first place and on a six-game winning streak.
UNB’s three-point shooting produced on Saturday, hitting 40 per cent of their shots. In the first quarter, Will McFee hit two three-pointers and Irvine one to give the Varsity Reds a one-point lead heading into the second.
The Varsity Reds’ offence continued to roll in the second, scoring 30 points to lead 50-36 at halftime. UNB added 22 and 24 points in the third and fourth quarters to pick up a big 21-point victory.
Masters had another strong game, recording 27 points in the victory. Although UPEI’s Tyler Scott had 32 points, Masters now leads the AUS in scoring with 25.6 points per game, just edging Scott’s 25.2.
UNB once again displayed their roster’s depth with Irvine posting 23 points and 13 rebounds while McFee had 18 points. Their defensive game was also strong, holding one of the country’s top offences to just 75 points.
The Varsity Reds, now 10-3 with 26 points, travel to Acadia this weekend to face the Axemen on Friday and Saturday.