The Acadia men’s basketball team enters this weekend’s AUBC playoffs at the Halifax Metro Centre as the second seed, with their sights set on a second straight conference title and third straight trip to the CIS Final Eight.
Acadia finished the regular season with a 15-5 record for 42 points, second only to 19-1 Cape Breton. The Axemen ended up with the best defence in the AUBC, allowing 1,360 points in 20 regular season games.
The Axemen, by virtue of their second-place finish, gain a bye into the second round and by-pass the March 1 quarterfinals, which will see #3 UPEI take on #6 Saint Mary’s and #4 Dalhousie meet #5 St. F.X. Acadia will meet the highest seeded of the quarterfinal winners at 8:15 p.m. on March 2.
Axemen head coach Steve Baur acknowledged that despite Cape Breton’s strong season - the Capers’ only regular season loss was to Acadia acouple of weekends ago in Wolfville - the playoff picture remains wide open.
“The AUS has proven to be competitive across the board this year,” he said. “And there are a lot of dangerous teams with the potential to become champions.”
The Axemen “have had a couple of weeks with everyone back on the roster (from injury) and have had some good moments to build on in that time.”
Baur stressed, “our focus for the weekend will be on the defensive end. To have a shot (at winning) this weekend, we need to rebound off our own glass.”
Acknowledging the importance of a healthy and effective Owen Klassen to the Axemen chances, he added, “we also want to get Owen established and involved early on, and let the rest of our guys play off the attention he should draw.”
In their final regular season game Feb. 23 at Dalhousie, Acadia lost 78-70 to the Tigers in a game that had no real bearing on the final standings for Acadia, but nonetheless illustrated the competitiveness and uncertainty of the conference.
Dalhousie led 19-14 after one quarter, but the Axemen fought back for a 35-35 tie at halftime by winning the second quarter 21-16.
The Tigers took control by winning the third quarter 22-11, and though Acadia took the fourth 24-21, the Axemen were still behind by eight at the final buzzer.
For Acadia, which shot 34.8 per cent (24-69) from the floor, Klassen led the way with 24 points (including 10-11 free throws), eight rebounds and five blocked shots.
Tyler Scott added 14 points and Anthony Ashe 13 for the Axemen.
Simon Marr finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds for Dal. William Yengue added 17 points and 14 boards, Jarred Reid 15 points and Jumol Mullins 11.
Neither team had much success from three-point range, with Acadia making just 6-27 and Dalhousie not a whole lot better at 6-23. The Tigers also won the rebounding battle by a 58-43 margin, including 20-13 at the offensive end.