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Photo by Megan Koch

Pack the Jack weekend recap

By Rodrigo Verney, January 31 2023

Another edition of one of the University of Calgary’s biggest sports classics was played on the weekend of Jan. 20 to 21. Pack the Jack, Dinos basketball’s biggest event, is one of the greatest events in U of C history, set a week before Dinos hockey’s Crowchild Classic. This exciting matchup brings our rivals the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to our home court for two days of nonstop action. As the impending atmosphere of the playoffs draws closer every week, this matchup is much more than a simple game, it’s a warning.

Friday night opened up with the women’s game. Coming out of a win and a loss, respectively, the team was looking forward to some momentum against the Huskies. They came out of the gate with a confident and optimistic spirit, having proven themselves to be quite the defensive juggernaut on the season so far. However, the shadow of a 17–7 record hung on top of them. A good record but one that is very susceptible to change. Lose four games and the balance starts to tip really quickly. The Dinos women’s head coach Damian Jennings shared his pre-game thoughts with the Gauntlet

“The teams are in a good place. Just coming out of the road from Fraser Valley with a split. We are loading each week and we have a strong competition in [Huskies] and we are looking for a good game,” said Jennings. 

The Dinos were looking to take a hold of this game from the beginning, setting their eyes on scoring early and often. Their cohesion on defence made a huge difference when it mattered. Stopping some early transitional plays and maintaining ball pressure even against screens and switches. Forcing some corner threes that they refused to take, a clear weakness of their offence that the Dinos made sure to explore. Players that managed to infiltrate were usually met with a block or with some really tough coverage. Their on-paint pressure was unfortunately explored multiple times for quick fouls which also gave the Huskies  some inconvenient free points.

The problem started when some poor finishing at the offensive end denied them some important points to cut down the Huskies’ lead. Their defence continued strong until the end but it wasn’t enough to keep the Huskies at bay. They were able to squeeze a few threes and control the rebound in the second half. Coupling this with the Dinos’ poor offensive performance led to an ever-increasing lead that the Huskies maintained all throughout the game. Dinos lost 57–83. Leading scorer Myriam Kone finished the game with 13 points. When asked about how the game went, Kone admitted they can improve in some ways.

Photo by Megan Koch

“We could have played better defence and just box out more. We did pretty good on the second half pushing the ball,” said Kone. 

The men’s game began not long after with a quick score for the Huskies after an uncalled shove on Noah Warton gave them an open lane for the basket. This didn’t diminish their confidence, in fact, it only added fuel to the flame as the Dinos responded with a few baskets of their own. The dynamic duo of Warton and Ezehoa Santiago led the way for an amazing performance hitting a couple of tough contested three-pointers and making some incredible readings on the paint for key charging calls that ensured important possession throughout the game.

That is not to say that the Huskies weren’t on the Dinos’ tail. They were able to penetrate and bank shots for the majority of the game, thanks to their shooters spacing out the defence. They took advantage of a lot of post-action which proved very important for them as it led to some pretty important baskets while punishing the defence with constant and intensive force. The score remained pretty much tied throughout the night — a glaring concern that head coach Dan Vanhooren addressed multiple times on the hurdle before the second half of the game. Santiago shared some of his concerns and gave his opinions on the game up to that point.

“We have been playing really hard. We have been playing really good defence, like a really, really good defence,” said Santiago. “We had some lapses but, for the most, I think that we are containing the guys that can really win it for [Huskies]. At the end [of the half] we had some lapses but we are going to clear it out for the second half.”

The second half came along and the battle didn’t stop. Both sides made amazing plays and dominated the offence as much as they could. Warton showed his handles a couple of times and propelled the atmosphere through the roof at the very last minutes of the third and the beginning of the fourth. This fired up his teammates who were able to take advantage of a great run and get the advantage at the end of the fourth after a dagger by Santiago from deep. The Huskies played the fouling game which brought them to within three. Luckily, that was more of a scare than a legitimate threat, as the ball came down and the buzzer rang. Dinos won 80–78. 

“We are turning the corner. Our ability to be resilient and some of the work ethic that [Mason Foreman] brings in the off-season is rubbing off on the other guys and I do think there is an upside to this group that none has seen yet,” said Vanhooren in his closing remarks on a much-deserved win.

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