As the Red River Rebels begin to gear up for a playoff run – trying to capture a third consecutive men’s basketball conference title – they are finding that utilizing their size and scoring down low is leading to team success.
Cory Neufeld, a 6’6” second-year post has taken the consistency in his game to another level since the holiday break. In their 81-54 dominance of the Blazers on February 6, Neufeld took control of the boards on both ends, added 11 points, and shut down CMU’s big man Wyatt Anders. He held the 6’7” freshman to 7 first-half points, and scoreless in the second.
“We did a really good job against Anders who was coming off 47 (points) and 21 (rebounds),” said head coach Sukh Singh, who spoke in near amazement of Anders’ eye-opening performance in the Blazers’ previous game against the Oak Hills Wolf Pack.
“Our big men were going to work,” said Neufeld. “Anytime we have a mismatch, we have to get them in the block. That’s what makes us successful – getting the ball down low. (CMU) doesn’t like to play a full front, like say U of W does. That benefits us… because our wings can pass the ball to our big guys. (Against CMU) we never had an issue getting it inside.”
Singh sees a difference in Neufeld and the Rebels, especially since losing their leading rebounder and scorer in Ryan Purdy for the season’s second half due to academic reasons.
“(Neufeld has) been playing a lot better for us,” said Singh of the 23-year-old River East Collegiate grad. “Without Ryan (Purdy), he really needs to impose his will and presence in the paint.”
Singh emphasized the importance of getting good performances from his big men.
“If we can dominate the paint, we’ll win. Beyond a few bigs, there isn’t a lot of size in the conference.”
Barring two huge upsets of the #1 ranked University of Winnipeg College Wesmen this weekend, the defending champion Rebels will take the #2 seed into the 2011 MCAC Final 4 Basketball Championships (March 11 & 12) and face a familiar foe in the tournament’s opening round at Providence College – last year’s conference finalists, the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers.
By Darrin Bauming