Despite a slow start, UCD Marian overcame Dublin rivals DCU Saints with a consummate performance. Ryan Mackenzie reports
The DCU Saints entered the Sports Centre in third place of the Superleague North Conference, directly behind second-placed UCD Marian and no doubt saw the contest as an opportunity to overtake their Dublin rivals. However, a hard-fought battle saw the home side claim the spoils in an exciting game.
As the old cliché goes, this truly was a game of two halves, with the visitors bossing the opening two quarters, but UCD consolidating their victory in the all-important closing periods.
The opening quarter was a close affair, with both offences executing fluid attacks. The visitors opened the scoring and led the way to end the first ten minutes with a scoreline of 20-23. However, the score would have been all square at the break but for a miraculous Hail Mary shot by guard Michael Chubb from his own half on the buzzer.
It was clear from the start that UCD’s tactics revolved around a greater degree of teamwork than previously seen – with much of the Students’ offence this season coming from James Crowder and Conor Meany. Every member of the team played his part on offence and the end result was some of the finest basketball the team has played in this campaign.
The high-scoring tempo of the opening period abated somewhat in the second quarter, as both sides tightened up on their defensive games. However, the visitors proved more clinical on offence and extended their lead slightly to enter the halfway interval with a narrow lead.
Not only were the Saints confident on offence, they also seemed capable of handling anything the home side could throw at them. They repeatedly secured scores on the counter-attack and held UCD out on defence. They thus looked on course for a convincing away victory.
However, the second half proved to be UCD’s, as the home side set about overhauling the deficit. With the help of talisman James Crowder, the Students soon obtained a three-point lead only minutes into the third quarter.
Crowder had a deceptively good game. The American was uncharacteristically quiet for much of the contest, as his teammates stepped up to the plate. However, the shooting guard ended the night with an impressive 24 points – including a spectacular dunk on the end of a perfect pass from point guard Conor Meany.
The game descended into a fouling competition for a brief period of the penultimate quarter. Both teams began trading free throws and the pace of the game slowed considerably. Luckily for Marian, they were on form from the line and ended the quarter with a four-point lead, as the scoreline stood at 58-54.
Meany opened the last quarter with a terrific three-pointer and followed it up with a quick assist. UCD were flying and the Saints struggled to keep pace with them. The visitors attempted to put the home side under pressure by implementing a full-court man-to-man defence. However, their efforts proved fruitless and within minutes the UCD lead had entered double digits.
Soon DCU began to threaten Marian once again. With an eight-point deficit to overcome in the closing two minutes, the Saints began to pressurise the UCD defence. Fortunately for the home side, this last-ditch attempt at a comeback left the visitors vulnerable at the back and Marian were able to extend their lead to end the game with an impressive 81-69 victory.
This win keeps the Students in second place of the Northern Conference, behind the undefeated 11890 Killester. The Students will be hoping they can become the first team this year to beat the league leaders, as they travel to face Killester in Clontarf for their next league match in two weeks time.
However, before then, UCD will once again welcome DCU to the Sports Centre this Saturday, where the two will face off in the Superleague National Cup quarter-final. A semi-final appearance in the National Cup would be a tremendous achievement for this young team and last week’s victory will no doubt fill the Students with the belief that they are capable of continuing their cup run.