The VIU Mariners are about to put the finishing touches on what has been a wild first semester of the season.
Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team has had outstanding performances, momentum swings and games that have gone down to the buzzer. Last weekend there was a record-setting night, as top scorer Usama Zaid dropped in 49 points in a 79-68 road win over the Quest Kermodes.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and get good shots, and I was able to get those and I was able to make them,” Zaid said.
Seeing that he can reach that kind of point total won’t change the way he plays, he said, except that it’s motivated him further.
“Hard work pays off, so it makes me want to work harder,” said Zaid. “That’s all I take from it … 49 points is good, now let’s move on and get better.”
Matt Kuzminski, Mariners coach, said what stood out most about the Quest game was how hard Zaid played – going after loose balls and rebounds, and always looking to attack and break down the opposing defence.
“I thought the thing that was great about him was his body language,” Kuzminski said. “The shots that he took were all good shots; he made a conscious effort to make the right play.”
Zaid said he hasn’t scored 49 points since middle school, and the total established a VIU record, besting the old mark of 43 set by Brandon Jones.
“I’ve heard of a lot of great guys come out of this school. Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard of a number of guys,” Zaid said. “So knowing I could do something like that … it’s a pretty cool thing to have happen.”
It would have been a perfect weekend for the Mariners if they had been able to hang on in the next night’s 95-94 loss to the Langara Falcons. Despite the setback, the M’s were pretty happy with how they played as they maintained effort and intensity.
“Losing is learning,” Zaid said. “Obviously nobody likes to lose, but we take note and we watch the tapes and we learn from it … It’s definitely a learning experience, but it’s a good one to have early in the season as opposed to later on.”
He said the team knows it needs to be able to close out games better, as it’s had double-digit leads in both its losses this fall.
“Losing those tight ones, while it sucks to lose, I think it makes us stronger,” said Kuzminski. “We can place more emphasis on the execution we need down the stretch.”
GAME ON … VIU’s basketball teams finish off the fall schedule this Friday (Nov. 18) on the road against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats. Next PacWest action at the VIU gym is Jan. 6.