The Brandon University Bobcats have had Saturday circled on their calendar for a long time.
After playing their first five Canada West men’s basketball games on the road, the Bobcats will finally get to take to the basketball court at BU’s new Healthy Living Centre for the first time in conference play on Saturday night (7 o’clock) when they host the Winnipeg Wesmen. For James Elias, a fourth-year centre with Brandon, playing in the new facility has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been looking forward to it quite a bit,” the 6-foot-11 Morden native said. “There will be a lot of fans and it will be nice to have the crowd in our favour. Hopefully it will give us some energy. It’s been a long time coming. I know my first year here they were talking about the gym. In my fourth year it finally came.”
While they can’t wait for their 2012-13 home debut, the Bobcats (1-3) know they can’t look too far ahead right now as they visit the Wesmen (2-2) tonight. Once again, Elias is expected to play a major role for Brandon.
With Isaiah James still out of the lineup with an ankle injury, Elias is expected to remain in the Bobcats’ starting lineup. He has had a decent start to the season, averaging 7.3 points and four rebounds per game while averaging 22 minutes of court time. However, it’s his long-range shot that has stood out so far. Elias, the tallest player on the Bobcats, is Brandon’s most accurate shooter from three-point range, making 46.7 per cent of his shots, and he was five for six in last Friday’s victory over the Manitoba Bisons.
Elias has been working on his three-point shot since head coach Gil Cheung took over the program in the 2010-11 season and he loves the effect it’s having.
“I like shooting the three-ball too, but it spreads the ball for everybody else,” Elias said. “As a team, it helps everybody out.”
Cheung knows his team can’t just rely on Elias to spread out the opposition for Brandon to have success. He is preaching fundamental basketball to his troops and wants them to win the rebounding and turnover battle and make sure they get back on defence in transition. If Brandon can do that, Cheung likes his team’s chances to rack up some wins.
“We’ve been doing it in spurts and when we do it well, we’re able to compete with some of the best teams in the conference,” he said. “When we don’t, we have those lulls in quarters or three or four-minute stretches that have cost us two games now. We’re a young group and we’re trying to figure that out and sort that out. We’re learning on the go right now, but we’ll get better and I think we’ll be there down the stretch.”
The Bobcats women’s basketball team will also be in Winnipeg today and at the Healthy Living Centre for their home opener on Saturday (5 p.m. tip off). Both the Wesmen (0-4), who feature Brandonite Tia Coulter, and the Bobcats (0-4) are searching for their first wins of the season.
This will be a showdown of the league’s worst defence — Winnipeg gives up 72 points per game — and the league’s worst offence — Brandon is scoring just 44.8 points per game.
Meanwhile, both BU volleyball teams are in Calgary today and tomorrow to take on the expansion Mount Royal University Cougars.
The Bobcats women’s volleyball team (4-2) cracked the CIS top 10 rankings for the first time this week as they moved into 10th after splitting their matches with the Manitoba Bisons. They are only one win out of first place in Canada West and would like to put the Cougars (4-2) behind them in the standings.
The Bobcats come into the contests as the most efficient team in Canada West at putting the ball away 31.4 per cent of the time.
The Bobcats men’s volleyball team (4-2), which moved up to sixth in the CIS rankings after splitting their matches with the Bisons last weekend, is also looking at pulling away from the Cougars (4-2) in the standings.
Brandon leads Mount Royal in every team statistical category and features the conference’s kill leader in Sam Tuivai, who has 102 kills and averages 4.25 per set.