When Scott Clark signed on as head coach of the TRU WolfPack men's basketball team, he probably couldn't have imagined many nights as frustrating as Saturday.
The WolfPack opened the second half of its Canada West schedule with a 76-59 loss to the UBC-Okanagan Heat at the Tournament Capital Centre. UBC-O is 2-9, while the WolfPack fell to 4-7 and further out of the playoff picture.
Clark joined the WolfPack from the Simon Fraser Clan prior to the 2010-11 season, and knew it was going to be a challenge to build up TRU's program. But just when it appeared it was set to make a charge to the playoffs, TRU came out with an effort like Saturday's.
The WolfPack looked disinterested and lacklustre for large stretches of the game. It had Clark scratching his head and looking as frustrated as he ever has during his tenure at TRU.
"We put ourselves in awfully deep holes, both at the start of the game and the start of the (second) half," Clark said. "We just lacked energy, for whatever reason."
If there was one play that summed up the night for the WolfPack, it was the opening tipoff. Blaz Bozinovic slapped the ball straight back, but the Heat's Yassine Ghomari was first to it, and then split a pair of flat-footed defenders to gave his side a 2-0 lead only three seconds into the game.
TRU slept through much of the opening six minutes, but managed to get back into the ball game before halftime.
It was like deja vu all over again in the second half, when the WolfPack stood around for about seven minutes and allowed the Heat to take a 15-point lead.
"If we're down three and it's a loose ball and we don't come up with it and they knock in a three - that's a critical possession," Clark said. "But it's not critical if you do your job early in the game. . . . That was frustrating."
But, for as bad as the WolfPack was, it did get a few gutsy efforts from individuals.
Troy Grant's hot start - he had all nine of his points in the first half - kept TRU's head above water early. And Zach Usherwood, who ended with six points, provided a second-half spark that gave the WolfPack life down the stretch.
Brett Rouault was his reliable self, scoring 18 points, while Kevin Pribilsky scored 20 points and did all he could do to bring the WolfPack close late.
In fact, TRU did manage to erase a 15-point deficit and tie things up with 3:10 remaining, when Pribilsky made his fourth three-pointer of the night to even things at 57.
Things fell apart not long after.
"A kid had a three-point play . . . and a loose ball that they came up with and knocked in a three," Clark said. "That's six . . . and that's the ball game."
Again, it was Ghomari, whose second-chance three-pointer broke the tie with 2:40 left, and whose three-point play 35 seconds later put the WolfPack out of its misery, and Clark into his.
"They were hitting some crazy shots - Pribilsky was making those floaters," said Ghomari, a fourth-year guard from Vancouver. "We needed a guy to step up, take charge and lead us. I guess I wanted the ball at the end, and got lucky."
The Heat slowly put the game away, although the frustrated WolfPack took some late fouls that did nothing but allow UBC-O to pad its stats and make the score seem worse than it was.
The 59 points was the least TRU has scored in a conference game this season. That probably wouldn't have been the case if the WolfPack had any sort of presence in the paint.
Sure, guards Pribilsky, Usherwood and Rouault managed to drive and get some points, but twin centres Ivan and Blaz Bozinovic struggled. Ivan had two points and five rebounds, while Blaz had one point and two rebounds. Clark gave up on the low-post game late in the third quarter.
"We didn't get much in low-post production," Clark said. "But I thought we got fouled and to the rim in the fourth quarter and got some easy baskets there."
FOUL SHOTS: Mitch Goodwin had 20 points to lead the Heat, while Anwar Faza had 12 and Greet Gill scored 11. . . . TRU will be home to the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday, 8 p.m., and the Calgary Dinos on Saturday, 7 p.m. Both games will be at TRU Gym. . . . The Saturday game will be alumni night for WolfPack basketball. Any former players, coaches, trainers or managers are invited - to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org. . . . A similar alumni weekend for the WolfPack volleyball program will be held Jan. 19.
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