Momentum shows no sign of relenting as UoN Basketball move into touching distance of BUCS title

UoN Basketball M1s have taken further significant steps towards the BUCS Midlands 1A title, recently overseeing a resounding 90-41 victory over Coventry at the David Ross Sports Village before coming out on top of a slightly tighter affair in Birmingham, winning 64-58 against UoB M1s. Their wins make two victories in two for 2018 in BUCS, and puts them six points clear of second place Nottingham Trent, although their cross-city rivals have two games in hand.

During the Coventry win on home surfaces, UoN were able to stay in command throughout, capitalising on an efficient shooting display that saw them knock down over 50% of their shots, whilst producing some effective defensive play to confine Coventry. That impressive play on both ends of the floor brought them their highest points scored in a BUCS league game this season, as well as their lowest amount of points conceded. For Coventry, the story of the game was turnovers, with frequent errors costing the visitors badly in their attempts to take on the league leaders.

The Green and Gold made a flying start to the contest, making five of their first six shots to take a 12-4 lead in the opening few minutes that brought the first time out of the game from Coventry. But the visitors were unable to stem the tide, making just one field goal for the rest of the quarter whilst UoN kept a steady stream of scoring going to secure themselves a healthy 27-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

A lively start to the second quarter saw both teams get early points on the board in the opening exchanges, but following this Coventry’s Achilles’ Heel came to the fore. Turnover after turnover helped to kill off any chance of a revival by the visiting side, and gave the hosts plenty of opportunities to score on the fast break. Those mistakes allowed UoN to keep a comfortable lead in the run up to the next timeout, leading 45-20 with three minutes remaining, before a scrappy final few minutes of the half meant the hosts took a twenty-seven point lead into the break.

The start to the second half saw both sides struggle to regain their composure from that disjointed end to the half, with UoN calling their first timeout of the game with six minutes to go in the third quarter. One area of the game where the visitors were able to frustrate the hosts was in offensive rebounding, with some good work in this area presenting Coventry with opportunities to cut the deficit, but their passing up of these chances meant they could not make a significant dent in the Green and Gold’s advantage.

The home side finished the third quarter strongly, however, making a 7-0 run in the closing stages on the back of forcing more Coventry mistakes and a good shooting spell. That meant UoN could boast a thirty seven-point advantage going into the final ten minutes. Just as in the third, the first exchanges of the fourth quarter lacked the cohesion that the hosts had built their overwhelming advantage on, making only one of their first six shot attempts at the expense of three turnovers.

Despite this shaky start to the quarter, the hosts were soon able to reinforce their advantage. Another strong spell saw the Green and Gold finish the game on a 19-6 run, making effective use of driving to the basket combined with a couple of three pointers to add the gloss to an emphatic victory.

The performance means the Green and Gold extended their advantage at the top of the BUCS Midlands 1A League to six points, a gap they managed to maintain as they continued a strong start to the year with 58-64 victory at the University of Birmingham. In fact, the results mark a seamless transition from the second half of the season, where UoN only lost one BUCS game. Coach MD had opted to lose that rivalry clash on a tactical basis, eager to preserve their comfortable place atop the table. Impact Sport met up with UoN Basketball’s new man in charge to hear about that particular decision, and you can read about it, plus his journey from growing up in Lithuania to becoming a coach in the latest issue of Impact Magazine. 

With only  the visit of University of Cambridge remaining for the league season, UoN look sure to clinch the title that has essential been theirs to lose all season long. They will still need to keep an eye on Nottingham Trent and their two games in hand, but the positive momentum of this team in Mindaugas Janiska’s first season in charge shows no sign of relenting.

Alex Riggs

Image credit: Tom Monks

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