If the Dalhousie Tigers plan to defend their title at the Rod Shoveller Memorial Tournament, they're off to a good start.
The Tigers defeated the Bishop's Gaiters 72-64 in their first game of their home tournament, hoping to turn their season around after a disastrous 1-6 start to the season.
They lead almost all game long, and despite shooting just 37.9% from the field.
Devon Stedman had a game-high 23 points for the Tigers, and added seven rebounds, including five offensive boards.
Ritchie Kanza Mata played solid in the victory, dropping nine points on 5-6 shooting from the charity stripe while adding seven assists and five rebounds.
Majid Naji led the charge for the Gaiters in the loss, adding 11 points and 3 rebounds.
The Tigers went on a tear offensively early starting the game with a 9-2 run, but the Gaiters battled back with a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game at nine.
From there, the Tigers offense sputtered and stumbled with a string of errant passes that led to fast break after fast break for the Gaitors.
John Traboulsi came in and provided instant energy off the bench, connecting twice from long distance to give the Tigers a 17-10 leading Gaiters coach Rod Gilpin to call a timeout.
Majid Naji picked off a lazy Tigers pass and fed Mike Andrews in the paint, who turned around and rattled in a thunderous jam.
The teams traded buckets late in the quarter and it was tied at 19 after ten minutes of play.
The intensity picked up early in the second quarter, and the Gaitors hounded Tigers point guard Ritchie Kanza Mata with tough full court defense, forcing the second-year guard to make quick decisions.
Sven Stammberger, who has seen limited minutes this season, provided a spark offensively for the Tigers in the second quarter, dropping six points in the quarter on 3-4 shooting.
With time expiring, Tigers forward Devon Stedman hit a big three at the buzzer to push the Tigers lead to 37-30 going into halftime.
Gaiters forward Mike Andrews was key for Bishop's off the bench in the half, providing seven points and four boards. He caused havoc in the paint for the Tigers, who couldn't seem to box him out.
The game picked up right of the gate in the second half, but it was the Tigers who got their share of friendly bounces and pulled out to a 47-38 lead. Tempers flared as the Gaiters picked up five early fouls, sending the Tigers to the line.
The Gaiters started to play sloppy defense, preferring to hack instead of gaining strong defensive position. They found themselves in foul trouble early, and were in the bonus with over five minutes left in the quarter. The Tigers capitalized from the line, going 9-13.
With the lead at 54-40, Matt MacLean found himself wide open in the paint for a layup, and Rick Plato called a timeout after the Tigers showed questionable defensive intensity for consecutive sets.
Matt MacLean hit one of two free throws in the final seconds of the quarter cut the deficit to 13 as the Gaiters trailed 56-43 going into the fourth quarter.
The Gaitors opened the quarter on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to single digits, but found themselves in foul trouble again with three team fouls just three minutes into the quarter. They only took another minute to get two more fouls and put themselves over the limit.
Sage Holder hit a corner three and Kurt Caro ran the floor after a turnover for a wide open layup, again cutting the lead to nine, and Rick Plato quickly called a timeout to rally the troops.
Majid Naji hit a wide-open three with 40 seconds on the clock to trim the lead to 69-62, forcing the Tigers to call another timeout.
Sage Holder grabbed an offensive board and got off a quick jumper with 24.6 on the clock to cut the gap to six.
The Gaiters had no choice but to intentionally foul the Tigers in the final seconds, and the Tigers made them pay. Ritchie Kanza Mata hit three of four free throws late to put the final nail in the coffin.
In previous games at the Shoveller, Lorenzo Parker had 18 points and 5 rebounds off the bench as the UPEI Panthers defeated the StFX X-Men 88-72. Jayden Skinner-Nordin added 17.
Owen Klassen had a double-double with 19 points and 13 boards as the Acadia Axemen upset the Saint Mary's Huskies 88-74. Anthony Ashe had five threes and 18 points in the victory.