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Panthers power past Varsity Reds

The winning streak is over for the UNB Varsity Reds men’s basketball team.

Entering Saturday’s game on a six-game winning streak and sitting in first place in the Atlantic University Sport standings, the Varsity Reds were thumped 104-85 by the UPEI Panthers in front of a big Richard J. Currie Center crowd of 1,283.

“They had a good game plan and they came in and they executed it against us,” said V-Reds head coach Brent Baker.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They made some shots and we didn’t defend well. We put them on the free throw line all night and we let the officiating affect us too much — that was the biggest problem. We stopped playing because we had a few things go against us and we didn’t battle or handle the adversity very well. Definitely disappointed.”

The four-point win allowed the Panthers to leapfrog the Varsity Reds for top spot in the conference standings. UPEI, now 13-4, has 34 points while UNB, 12-4, has 32. There are two weeks remaining in the AUS regular season.

UNB had a fairly strong first quarter on Saturday and led by as much as nine points. At the buzzer, the Reds were up 24-21.

Momentum started to swing in favour of UPEI in the second quarter. Some cold shooting and turnovers allowed the Panthers to take over the lead. At the half, UPEI was up 49-41.

In the third, UPEI quickly jumped out to a 10-point lead. At 6:08, Javon Masters made a great pass to Jordan Irvine who finished off an alley-oop. A few minutes later, Will McFee drained a three-point shot to keep the Reds within striking distance. Despite hitting some nice baskets, play went back-and-forth and the Panthers were able to maintain their 10-point lead for most of the quarter. A layup by McFee at the buzzer cut the Panthers’ lead to 73-67 heading into the fourth.

In the final frame, the Reds got within five but back-to-back three-point shots from Tyler Scott spelled trouble for UNB. UPEI continued to heat up as the quarter went along, leading the visiting squad to a 104-85 victory.

“(I’m) just disappointed in our ability to handle a little bit of adversity tonight and come back,” said Baker. “We’ve handled more adversity on the road and done better than we did tonight. We turtled — that’s what happened.

UNB, typically a strong shooting team from downtown, hit just 20.7 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc. McFee, who hit two three-pointers, led the V-Reds in scoring with 20 points. Masters was contained to 18 points while Matt Daley had 15. Nikola Mandic had 10 rebounds.

“I thought Matt Daley had a really good game,” said Baker. “I thought he had an outstanding game for our guys.”

Fouls were also a major problem for UNB with all but one of their starters picking up four or more.

This was the third and final meeting of the regular season between the two, but if both stay on their current pace, a matchup at the AUS Championship in Halifax isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

UNB had won all three previous meetings between the two — 96-82, 102-80 and 96-75.

The Varsity Reds have just four regular season games remaining and they’ll be big ones as they fight for first place. The Reds are on the road this weekend, travelling to StFX on Friday and Dalhousie on Saturday. The team plays their final games before playoffs on Feb. 20 and 21 at the Currie Center against MUN.

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