By Rahim Demolitor
After winning their second Atlantic University Sport title in the last three seasons, the Dalhousie Tigers men’s basketball team is set to play in its first game at the Canadian university national championships Friday night against Saskatchewan.
Since 2008, the Tigers have had the least points scored against them in the Atlantic division. The team’s success can be attributed to head coach John Campbell’s defense-first system, which the team has been using for over two years.
“We have stressed that our team defense is our identity and that we need to focus on that in order to win. The team has gradually bought into the idea and has embraced it.”
The Tigers had nine less points scored against them per-game than any other team during this season.
”I think our main philosophy is to contain penetration and force teams to take contested perimeter shots. That has been the biggest factor. We also focus on limiting them to one shot each possession,” said Campbell.
This year, Campbell received the Atlantic University Sport Coach of the Year award.Campbell’s philosophy was proven against St. Francis Xavier in the Atlantic semi-finals, holding opposing guard Christian Upshaw to just 10 points, forcing Upshaw into four offensive fouls, holding him to a 4-15 shooting. Upshaw is a member of the all-Canadian team, which consists of the five best players in Canada.
“We game planned for Christian specifically because he is so explosive,” said Campbell. “We try to limit his ability to attack the basket and gang up on him early and make him shoot difficult shots.”
Despite the Tigers’ success, Campbell knows their toughest challenge is yet to come. In 2009, during the opening round of the national university championships, the UBC defeated by the Tigers by 24 points, finishing in last place.
This year, the Tigers aren’t content with just being in the tournament and are aware that it will take more than just defense to be successful against such steep competition.
“We’re a different team then we were in 2009, we have the experience of being there before,” said Campbell. “This team is also deeper and more balanced then in the past. We’re also a bit more athletic.”
Dalhousie has never won an national championship and hope to be the first Atlantic team to reach the championship game since St. FX hoisted the trophy in 2001.
-Watch the No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers vs. No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies Friday, March 11 at 6:00 pm at the Halifax Metro Centre. The game will also be televised nationally on TSN2.
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