One of the best seasons in UNB basketball history came crashing to an end on Saturday at Scotiabank Centre.
The top-ranked Varsity Reds, who finished first overall in the Atlantic University Sports men’s basketball standings for the first time since 1967, were upset by the fifth seeded Dalhousie Tigers 85-74 in the conference semifinal.
UNB finished the regular season with a 16-4 record and 46 points, 16 points ahead of Dalhousie. The Varsity Reds also won both meetings during the regular season between the two, making the 11-point loss all the more surprising.
“We’ve got to come to play. Those guys made shots and they executed,” said UNB head coach Brent Baker. “But the bottom line is we really messed up, on three or four possessions, defensive assignments.”
UNB had a good first half, leading 40-29 at intermission. A Dylan Baker three-point shot gave the Varsity Reds a 12-point lead with less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter. Then the wheels started to slowly side off.
“We wanted to stay home on shooters and we definitely didn’t stay home on shooters,” said Baker.
UNB found themselves up by just one, 58-57, when the third quarter ended. A Sven Stammberger jump shot just nine seconds into the final frame gave the Tigers a one-point lead and things went back-and-forth from there. At 4:16, Stammberger nailed a three, putting the Tigers up two. Then at 1:58, a Lawrence Kashrell lead three-point shot gave the Tigers a commanding 77-70 lead and sent the Dalhousie student section into a frenzy.
UNB scored just four points in the final two minutes of the fourth. They went cold from downtown in the quarter, going 0/4, and only hit 33% of their field goal attempts.
“They executed and we didn’t,” said Baker. “We had to make some shots and we didn’t.”
Javon Masters led UNB in scoring with 26 points while Will McFee chipped in with 22. Other than Matt Daley who had 11, no other Varsity Red had more than six points.
Stammberger, who provided a huge spark for the Tigers in the second half, led Dalhousie in scoring with 20 points.
But even moments after the season ending loss, Baker had plenty of good things to say about UNB’s historic campaign.
“I’m disappointed for our guys. I’m not disappointed in our guys,” he said.
“I’ve got no regrets. They say there’s no joy in coaching, but I’ll tell you, a lot of those kids in that room, for three or four years, have eaten a lot of humble pie and taken a lot of beat downs. It’s nice to walk in the locker room when you’re 16-4 and see the satisfied smiles on those kid’s faces. I’m not going to sit here and whine or complain. We are what we are and hey, they executed better than us tonight.”
Dalhousie will play cross-town rival Saint Mary’s in Sunday’s AUS Championship game. The third seeded Huskies advanced to the final after upsetting the seconded seeded UPEI Panthers on Saturday. The AUS champion advances to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship tournament in Toronto.
Meanwhile, UNB’s women’s basketball team had their season come to an end on Thursday with a 65-45 loss to the Panthers in the AUS quarterfinals. Laura Kaye led the Varsity Reds with 13 points.