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John Browne
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Benoite takes some offence with team's recent defensive play

The scores were close and Memorial earned a split last weekend in Atlantic universities men's basketball, but Sea-Hawks' coach Peter Benoite was hardly pleased with his team's overall performance.

"We probably only played one good game - two good second halves to be exact," Benoite said this week as his team prepared to play the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers at the Field House.

Peter Benoite

The scores were close and Memorial earned a split last weekend in Atlantic universities men's basketball, but Sea-Hawks' coach Peter Benoite was hardly pleased with his team's overall performance.

"We probably only played one good game - two good second halves to be exact," Benoite said this week as his team prepared to play the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers at the Field House.

Game times are 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Sunday's game was was rescheduled from 11:30 a.m.

Looking back on last weekend's games against the UNB Varsity Reds - a 76-72 loss and 80-76 win, Benoite said his team played terribly defensively in the first half of both matches.

"That's against a team that is only averaging 67 points a game," said an exasperated Benoite. "Makes it tough to win with that kind of defence ... and spotting them a 19-point lead on Saturday certainly didn't help.

"Both days though, we came out of halftime with the much needed fire and intensity we need to play with.

"On Saturday, we used our full-court pressure to bring the game back to within three, but we can't spot a team that much of lead and still expect to win. On Sunday, we used a half-court zone defence the guys ran great, which gave UNB a lot of trouble and allowed us to take command. It was a big win for us emotionally."

Benoite praised the work of sophomore Jason Shepherd and especially veteran George English in the series.

"Overall," the MUN coach said, "we've actually played well now our last five games."

He hopes that effort continues this weekend against a team that is coming off a pair of wins over nationally ranked Dalhousie Tigers.

"It would be nice for us to pull off two this weekend, but its not going to be easy," said Benoite.

"UPEI has been playing well of late. They got a new guy after Christmas (Gamaleil Rose), who has been leading them in scoring since he joined them. (The Panthers) are athletic and can also shoot the three, which we found out in P.E.I (81-67 and 65-62 losses in November). We'll have to control their inside game (and be) able to get out on their shooters.

"If we show up with intensity and toughness, control our turnovers, and make our easy ones, I believe we will contend with anyone, and give ourselves a good chance to control our own fate.

"We know we let one slip away at UPEI earlier this season, so we are looking forward to putting together a couple of good games at home. We do ourselves a favour if we can control our home court this weekend."

According to Panthers coach Matthew Davies, his team's commitment at the defensive end helped urn the season around.

"We have had a very positive second semester," said Davies.

The additions of Rose, a six-foot-seven forward, and six-foot-two guard Jeffrey Rodgers, both from the Bahamas, has helped the Panthers' depth, "which was an issue in the first semester with the slew of injuries that we suffered through," noted Davies.

"The team is playing very unselfish basketball and has been crashing the boards hard. Jonathan (Cooper) has been a great floor general for us, Manock (Lual) and Andrew (Black) have been a force for us on the boards, and the addition of Gamaliel has allowed us to get out in transition and up the tempo of play.

"However," he added, "I think our best basketball is yet to come as our guys continue to work hard towards peaking for the playoff stretch.

"The whole team has stepped up and started to embrace their roles, so I do not think that we can say it is just one player who is leading the way," said Davies, a former assistant coach at McGill University and an apprentice assistant coach at St. Francis Xavier University.

"We definitely look to push the tempo on offence, so you can expect significant ball pressure at the defensive end so that we can create transition opportunities."

One player the Panthers may key on is Shepherd, MUN's team's highest scorer with a 14.5 points-per game average, good enough for 10th place in the conference scoring race.

"Shepherd has been on a real tear as of late, so we will have to work extremely hard to contain him," noted Davies.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Panthers, University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, Field House Cooper McGill University St. Francis Xavier University

Geographic location: Bahamas

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