Charlottetown, PEI - The STFX X-Men put on a defensive clinic in a convincing 85-68 win over the UPEI Panthers Friday night.
Through three quarters of action, the X-Men (3-0) had the game well in hand, as they held the Panthers (1-2) to just 40 points on 27.9 per cent shooting, while carrying a 27-point lead into the fourth.
The backcourt duo of Dondre Reddick and Antoine Vernon went off, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. Reddick connected on eight of 11 shots, with nine rebounds and two assists, while Vernon finished 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Right from the opening tip-off, it was evident that the X-Men were determined to establish their defensive dominance. Their intensity on the defensive end disrupted the Panthers' offensive flow, causing them to struggle with their shot selection and execution, leading to a nine-point opening quarter.
As well as they played on the defensive end, they were equally effective on the other end, as a pair of 8-0 runs in the first quarter helped the X-Men take an 18-9 lead into the second. James, Reddick, Bennett Grumbach, and Jeremiah Usiosefe all had four points in the frame.
STFX applied some full-court pressure early in the second quarter and it paid off immediately, as Steve Levnaic forced a turnover in the backcourt and drove hard to the basket for the and-one to make it 25-11.
After the Panthers cut it to 10, Vernon drilled back-to-back three-pointers, followed by a Reddick and-one to extend the lead to 40-21. Vernon continued to shoot the ball well and ended the half with five more points, as his X-Men went into the break ahead 45-26.
Vernon continued where he left off, scoring yet another triple, this time from the corner, to give STFX a 22-point advantage in the opening minute of the second half. The two teams traded baskets before three-pointers from Vernon and Reddick, followed by a Koat Thomas dunk, made it a 31-point game. Through three quarters, the X-Men led comfortably 67-40.
With STFX firmly in control of the game, both teams elected to go to their bench in the fourth quarter and save their starters for Saturday's rematch. The Panthers outscored their opponent 28-18 in the final 10 minutes, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
UPEI's two go-to options—Kamari Scott and Jace Colley—were limited to 21 points, with Colley scoring 14. Daniel Gonzalez Longarela made his presence felt in the paint, as the veteran centre recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Panthers look for a weekend split when the two teams battle it out again Saturday at 6 p.m.
Recap courtesy Thomas Becker