After having won a very intense game against rivals Woodsworth College last week, the UTM Division 1 Blue men’s basketball team played against UTSC last Wednesday.

The game started off fast-paced, with both teams running up and down the floor and scoring easily. The Eagles had only six players suited up for this game; usually they have nine or 10. The lack of bench players didn’t seem to hinder UTM in any way, though. They held to their offensive philosophy, which has won them many games this season.

The Eagles’ defence led to offence and they kept on pushing the ball. On one play after a rebound by centre Tevin Sutton-Stephonson, he made a quick outlet pass to Jonathan Harvey, who looked up and passed the ball down the court to guard Tyrell Subban. This passing, which was much better than it has been in previous games, continued throughout the first half, getting everyone involved in the offence.

Sutton-Stephonson brought a spark to the play in the first half. He started by making a deft pass to the cutting Jordan Nazarene, who finished easily at the rim. Then, on the very next play, he caught the ball just inside the three-point line and got his jump shot to fall. On the other end, UTM’s defence kept UTSC searching for answers—they couldn’t get their shots to fall and were visibly frustrated with their poor offence.

The Eagles’ impressive first half was slightly deflated with 5.5 seconds left. After a missed shot by UTSC, players scrambled for the rebound, and in the hustle for the loose ball UTM forward Victor Dang felt himself elbowed by a UTSC player and reacted by pushing the UTSC player a couple of times. A small shoving match ensued but was quickly extinguished by players of both teams. The referees sent both teams to their benches while they deliberated. In the end, they called a two-shot technical against Dang, ejecting him from the game. This left UTM with just five players and no bench to play the entire 15-minute second half. But UTM still held the lead at 39–27 going into the break.

UTM started the second half the same way the first half ended: with efficient passing that led to easy baskets on the other end. After two minutes, the UTSC coach called a timeout with the score at 50–35 in UTM’s favour. But UTM’s defence still didn’t allow UTSC any easy baskets, and, possession after possession, UTSC couldn’t get much going on offence. But as the game wore on the Eagles tired and their intensity dwindled.

UTSC felt this, and with nine minutes left on the clock they hit a three-point shot on one end of the floor, then got a clean block on Nazarene on the defensive end. UTSC went on the offence and hit another three-pointer. This sequence brought UTSC within six points of UTM and left Nazarene with a slight shoulder injury. UTM called a timeout with the score at 50–44 to strategize on how to slow down UTSC.

Afterwards, UTSC tried to pick up the intensity again and started pushing to the rim, where they got easy shots on a noticeably weaker UTM. When UTSC had made it only a four-point gap, UTM got good play from Subban, who kept his team in the lead with a pull-up three-point shot and a fast break layup after a steal on the defensive end. But UTSC wouldn’t go away. With the score at 60–56, UTM called another timeout to give their players a rest.

UTM forward Osama Abdelkader, who didn’t play in this game, encouraged his teammates on the bench. After the timeout, with less than two minutes left in the game, Harvey drove to the rim and got fouled after making the layup. On the other end the defence got stingy, and with Stephonson grabbing the rebounds and hitting his foul shots, UTM put UTSC away. The game ended with a final score of 71–65.

“I got into my rhythm early on in the game and I was able to hit my shots,” said Subban, who is in his first year with the team, after the game. “The team chemistry has improved because we’ve been playing together for a while and we know each other’s game.”

The playoffs are this week and UTM Blue has hit its stride at the right time, earning a bye week. Their passing has improved, they’re running plays more effectively, and the defence is there when it needs to be. They won’t be an easy out in the playoffs.