VIU wins exhibitions, excited for more basketball in new year

Mariners men sweep past Mohawk Mountaineers in CCAA action Dec. 29-30

VIU Mariners player Usama Zaid gets past Mohawk Mountaineers opponent Frank Benneh for a layup during Saturday’s CCAA exhibition game at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

VIU Mariners player Usama Zaid gets past Mohawk Mountaineers opponent Frank Benneh for a layup during Saturday’s CCAA exhibition game at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

The schedule gets a shakeup after the break, and the VIU Mariners plan to handle whatever comes their way.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team takes an undefeated record (6-0) into the second half of the Pacific Western Athletic Association season starting in the new year.

VIU ended 2017 with two more victories, sweeping exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Mohawk Mountaineers by scores of 85-69 and then 88-58 at the Vancouver Island University gym.

“We had our ups and downs, but I think altogether, we showed that we stayed where we were at when we left off, which is a good thing…” said Tyus Barfoot, VIU forward. “Things are looking very positive and we’re looking forward to the new year.”

Taking on an out-of-conference opponent, the Mariners were able to use the games to get better, Barfoot said.

“We like to focus on our basics and our defensive and offensive principles are important, because those will apply to every single game that we play,” he said.

Taking on the Mountaineers back-to-back was also a preview of how PacWest play will look starting in January, as the schedule switches to back-to-back games against the same opponent. Matt Kuzminski, M’s coach, said it’s difficult to defeat an opponent twice in a row, but he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“We spend so much time with video, with making adjustments, I think we’ll have some strengths there making adjustments from night to night,” he said. “But it’s the same thing for other coaches in the league – they’ll have a chance to see what we do the first night and try to make changes.”

As for the team’s undefeated record and pursuit of the top seed, those are in the background as the Mariners keep their focus on getting better, the coach said.

“Those kind of things are out of your control – the standings, what other teams do,” Kuzminski said. “It’s us. What can we do to put ourselves in the best position?”

The team added point guard Isaiah Solomon at mid-season, a player with CIS experience who can be “dynamic” and add depth to the position, Kuzminski said. The coach added that the team’s younger players are in a position to make great strides in a short amount of time.

“From week to week, we’ve made significant improvements,” he said.

Barfoot said the team has the right family atmosphere and chemistry and the second half of the season will be about working on the little things.

“We know where we can be at and we’ve just got work extra hard now over the next semester to get where we want to be,” he said.

In Friday’s win, Barfoot led VIU with 21 points and Usama Zaid scored 18. Roman Calero was the Mountaineers’ top scorer with 20. On Saturday, Zaid led all scorers with 25 points and Barfoot dropped in 24. Frank Benneh scored 18 to lead Mohawk.

GAME ON … VIU takes on the Langara Falcons in PacWest action Jan. 5-6 at the Vancouver Island University gym. The men’s games are at 8 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, and follow women’s games at 6 p.m. and 1 p.m.



sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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