May 23rd, 2024

Horns home to close first half

By Dale Woodard on December 3, 2021.

As they look to end the first semester of the Canada West season on a winning note, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s basketball team is looking inward.

The Horns men’s and women’s teams host the MacEwan Griffins tonight and Saturday at the 1st Choice Savings Centre.

After a 1-5 start to the season and hoping to tack on a few more wins this weekend, Pronghorns head coach Jermaine Small said the focus is squarely on themselves as the women’s game tips off tonight at 6 p.m. followed by the men at 8 p.m.

“We’ve identified where we need to get better and the guys have had a good week of practice,” said Small. “But at the end of the day, we’re more focused on the process than the result. It’s going to be really good to actually be home again. The last time we were home was a month (ago). So we’re looking forward to that and just looking forward to finishing off the semester strong.”

The Horns are coming off 83-78 and 82-67 losses to the Mount Royal Cougars last weekend in Calgary.

“A lot of the focus this past week has been on us,” said third-year Pronghorn De’Andrae Pierre, who led the Pronghorns in scoring both nights last weekend. “A lot of the games have come down to situations where there are things that we could have done better. We’re trying to focus on what we can do to be the best team as a collective. Usually, you’ll focus on the opponent and their schemes and systems. But this week has been all on us and how we can improve and be better in these next two games.”

The losses aside, Pierre noted some scrap in his teammates.

“This team, we want to win and that’s a good start,” he said. “We want to have a winning culture and they all want to win. I’ve seen a lot of cohesiveness. We’re all on the same page and have the same mindset. The coach has talked about it, we don’t want to peak too early, but the guys have a lot of pride and a lot of fight.”

Small noted some of his younger players getting their feet wet in the Canada West alongside the veterans.

“I think we have pretty good balance,” he said. “We have our veteran guys who have been consistent for the most part. I like that we have two of our younger guys who haven’t played a lot, like Shae Gibb or Avery Hutcheson. They’re getting more acclimated and adjusting well.

“We’re trying to focus on not beating ourselves, things like foul shooting and turning over the ball is what we’re trying to get better at. We focus more on the positives and the process and hopefully the weaknesses turn to strength.”

While the Horns are looking for their second win of the season, the Griffins (0-4) are looking for their first.

Pierre said his team’s 40-minute game needs to be worked on.

“Basketball is a game of runs. The other team is going to go on runs and we’re going to have times where we go on runs. It’s staying locked in all 40 minutes and how do we come back when a team goes on a run. Do we bend? Do we break? Those types of situations. I think that’s what we have to do going forward, just stay mentally locked in for all 40 minutes. No matter what’s happening on the court, stay together.”

Still, amid their early-season struggles and six-game losing streak that includes a 75-59 exhibition loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies Nov. 12 in Moose Jaw, Small said his team has handled it well.

“We try to keep a positive attitude. I keep saying to them ‘You win or you learn.’ As long as we’re learning and getting better and we understand that a lot of the mistakes are controllable, then let’s focus on what we can control. They know the record is sometimes not indicative of what’s really going on. We’re looking forward to this weekend and looking forward to us getting better and peaking at the right time.”

The Pronghorns last win came at the 1st Choice Savings Centre in their home opener Oct. 29, a 78-77 win over the Calgary Dinos.

This weekend they return to home court looking for a couple more wins.

“I’m excited, I love playing at home,” said Pierre. “Home games always give you that added energy, the home crowd is behind you. When you make a big play, the crowd is cheering. It’s a lot different than when you’re on the road. On the road it’s just the 12 guys on the bench. When you’re at home you have the whole community and the whole school behind you.”

On the women’s side, the Pronghorns bring a two-game winning streak that improves them to 2-4 into the weekend, having swept the Cougars last weekend in Calgary.

Pronghorns guard Jessica Haenni leads the team in points-per-game with 13.5, good for 23rd in the Canada West, while teammate Haily Weaver is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game.

Haenni also has 13 steals this season.

The Griffins are 1-3 this season.

Game time Saturday night is 5 p.m. for the women and 7 p.m. for the men.

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