Kyle Vince had a lot of makes on Friday night, but it was his miss that resulted in the biggest play of all.
Vince's running jump shot with three seconds left rimmed out but Donovan Gayle followed it up and tipped it in as time expired to give the Brandon University Bobcats men's basketball team a 77-75 win over the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack in the Canada West conference opener at the BU Gymnasium.
Vince finished with a team-high 19 points as the Bobcats wiped out a 23-point second-quarter deficit with a resilient defensive effort in the second half to win the debut of head coach Gil Cheung.
"I think first half, especially offensively, we were so careless with the ball," Cheung said. "Defensively I think our back-side guys were much more aware. Their back-cutting was hurting us because our back-side guys were falling asleep. We just had to shrink the court a little bit, get over and I think we did a good job of that and a good job on the glass."
Brandon won the rebounding battle 43-33 including a 25-10 edge on the offensive glass. The Bobcats also had 7-foot-2 TRU post Greg Stewart in foul trouble and a non-factor for most of the game.
The second-quarter swoon had the visitors out-executing the home side during a run that threatened -- and succeeded -- in taking all the energy out of a packed gymnasium filled with onlookers undoubtedly curious about what a rebuilding Bobcats squad looks like.
"Coach wants us to be a defensive team this year," said transfer guard O'Brian Wallace, whose two FTs with 32.3 seconds left tied the game at 75-75. "At the beginning we always have defensive lapses so that's what was happening in the first half. When we went down in halftime we said 'you guys have gotta play defence, you've gotta force them and play as a team' and that's what we did and we got it done."
The Wolfpack had a shot with time winding down in the fourth but Chas Kok's 12-foot jump shot fell out and Vince rebounded to give the Bobcats the last possession.
But the Bobcats, who trailed 48-33 at halftime, valiantly battled back in the second half: They outscored TRU 22-13 in the third quarter, showing the defensive grit that Cheung has been trying to instill in them from Day 1.
Wallace and Kyrie Coleman both finished with 11 points and Jordan Reaves and Gayle added 10 each.
TRU was led by Atlanta native Justin Riggins, who had a game-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Kevin Pribilsky chipped in 14 points and Stewart had 10.
"We're gonna have a little trouble scoring, especially early in the year, but defensive energy ... got us through that one," Cheung said. "I'm really proud of those guys. We've got seven new guys and they've been through a lot and I tip my hat to them."
AND ONE: Nathan Grant, who went to hospital last weekend after taking an elbow to the face, did not dress for BU. .... Brandonite Mike Raimbault lost his conference debut as head coach of the Winnipeg Wesmen. The U of W lost its season opener108-88 to the Bisons at Manitoba. ... The Quebec conference has changed its name from QSSF to RSEQ. ... Former BU men's assistant Mike Woollard, now the head women's coach at Quest College in Squamish, B.C., has enlisted the help of former BU all-Canadian Dany Charlery to be his assistant coach.