UCD Marian secured a comfortable victory over the Ulster Elks in the Sports Centre last Saturday. Ryan Mackenzie reports.
After a crushing comeback defeat to Belfast Star last week, UCD’s basketball team were keen to bounce back with a win against the lowly Elks from Ulster and they did so in impressive fashion. So dominant were the Students that they almost doubled their opponents’ final score.
The Students were in majestic form on both sides of the ball, with point guard Conor Meany and forward James Crowder leading the way. In fact, both players were so impressive that it was clear that they completely led the team. The two players combined to provide over half of their side’s final tally.
Since transferring from the US in a much-anticipated move which saw him arrive on the Dublin campus from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina this season, the six foot seven Crowder has led the UCD offence in points per game, rebounds per game, three-pointers and field goals. He did not disappoint against the Elks, posting 27 points and ten rebounds on the night.
However, the performance of Meany must not be overlooked. So far this season, the point guard has amassed great stats, leading his side in assists per game and total assists. Against Ulster, he scored 18 points to help his side to a deserved victory.
The game began slowly, with both sides struggling to open the scoring. It wasn’t until two minutes into the game, when Meany finally broke the deadlock with a free throw. The visitors responded quickly and the game began to flow.
The first quarter ended with a tight scoreline of 15-10, but the night was to become increasingly long for Ulster as the Students began to race into a commanding lead.
The second quarter opened with a flurry of points from the home team. Within minutes, the Students had a double-digit lead and the gulf in class began to show. Ulster couldn’t capitalise on their attempts, while weak defending allowed UCD to widen the gap. Poor rebounding stood to further cripple the Elks.
UCD were the bosses of the boards. However, this was more due to Ulster’s ineptitude rather than UCD’s prowess. It seemed as though the Students could shoot and miss with little risk, as they were usually gifted the ball right back. This enabled them to control the tempo of the game and simply demoralise their struggling opposition.
The sides entered the half-time break with a scoreline of 36-20, with the visitors having nothing more than the strong performance of Ben De La Cruz as their only consolation. The Ulster centre was the shining star for the visitors and an ever-present dominant force in the key. He eventually muscled his way to 24 points in the contest – over half of his team’s points total.
The early minutes of the second half saw a stark reversal in the run of play, as the visiting Elks took hold of proceedings. With De La Cruz continuing to control the key and point guard Barry Drumm posing a constant threat around the arch, it appeared as though an Ulster comeback was on the cards.
However, the sterling form of Meany and Crowder once again served to dent any hopes the visitors had of leaving Dublin with a much-needed win. A terrific solo effort by Meany en route to a well-taken lay up and a spectacular breakaway dunk from his American teammate highlighted the overall superiority of the Students. Despite the brief resurgence of Ulster, the UCD pair were not to be beaten and they quickly set about increasing their team’s lead.
With an emphatic lead of 25 points heading into the final quarter, UCD had only to avoid a miracle comeback for their fourth win of the season. They carried out this task in composed fashion and even managed to extend their lead further.
The final quarter unsurprisingly belonged to Crowder, as he managed to improve on an already magnificent performance. The American took control of the boards on defence and set about boosting his assisting stats. His efforts earned him a superb double-double in points and rebounds. He was unquestionably the player of the game – a worthy award, despite Meany’s similarly impressive performance.
The game ended with a scoreline of 75-43, which marks a welcome return to winning ways for UCD. Their next game is away to Bord Gais Neptune on Saturday and the Students will be hoping that Meany and Crowder continue to light up the scoreboard.