VIU men shaping up as contenders in PacWest

VIU Mariners basketball player Clayton Billett goes for a shot during a game against the Kwantlen Eagles earlier this season at the Vancouver Island University gym. - NIOMI PEARSON/The News Bulletin
VIU Mariners basketball player Clayton Billett goes for a shot during a game against the Kwantlen Eagles earlier this season at the Vancouver Island University gym.
— image credit: NIOMI PEARSON/The News Bulletin

Some fans might have expected a transition year for the VIU Mariners, but it’s turning out to be another contending year.

The first half of the Pacific Western Athletic Association schedule has seen the M’s men’s basketball team sprint to a 6-2 record, good for second place.

“It’s been a good start and I think we’ve progressed as a team to this point,” said Matt Kuzminski, the team’s coach. “Hopefully the trend continues because ultimately we want to play deep into March.”

In Kuzminski’s first year at the helm at Vancouver Island University, he has his team rolling along. The M’s aren’t the league’s highest-scoring team, but they have the top-ranked defence with 67.9 points allowed per game.

Guard Brandon Jones has been asked to shoulder more of the offensive load this season and he has responded – his 15.5 points per game put him eighth in the league in that category. He is also in the top 10 in the PacWest in rebounds and assists.

Fellow veteran Tyler Olsen is fifth in the league in rebounding with 7.8 per game and rookie point guard Jon Bethell is ninth in the league in assists with 2.8 per game.

The M’s were able to have success in the first half despite not playing at 100 per cent, said the coach.

“We need to get bodies back to being healthy,” Kuzminski said. “I’ve got a few guys that are pretty banged up and weren’t able to practise in some of the last weeks there. So getting them healthy will be big.”

The M’s will play an exhibition game at Whatcom Community College in Washington at the end of this month, then get right back into PacWest play as the schedule resumes Jan. 4.

“Hopefully the break will refresh them and get them back super excited to put a lot of work in the new year,” Kuzminski said.

GAME ON … The Mariners play the Camosun Chargers on Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Vancouver Island University gym following a 6 p.m. game between the colleges' women's teams … To read about VIU's women's basketball team, please click here.

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