Cougars earn fifth place in Pioneer Division after win over Saskatchewan

Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer Photography
Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer Photography

REGINA, Sask. – Postseason men's basketball will be played in Regina for the first time since 2009 as the University of Regina Cougars pulled away late for an 84-74 win over Saskatchewan on Saturday night at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.

The win secures fifth place in the Pioneer Division for the Cougars as well as home-court advantage next weekend in a Canada West play-in series. The Cougars will host Winnipeg in that best-of-three series, with the winner to advance to the Canada West quarterfinals where they'll meet Explorer Division champion Thompson Rivers.

"I'm happy for our guys, and I thought for the most part we showed good focus on the defensive end," Cougars head coach Steve Burrows said. "If we continue to do that, we'll keep giving ourselves chances to win games."

Travis Sylvestre had a stellar game off the bench for the Cougars, shooting 9-for-13 from the field to lead the Cougars with 19 points while also grabbing six rebounds and recording a team-high four assists. Aaron McGowan and Brandon Tull both finished with 14 points, while Jonathan Tull – in his final conference game – had 12 points and six steals.

Also playing his final Canada West game for the Cougars was Will Tallman, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds.

Evan Ostertag led Saskatchewan (8-12) with a game-high 24 points, while Shane Osayande was all over the stat sheet with 17 points, 15 rebounds, six steals, and four blocks. Chan De Ciman added 11 points for the Huskies.

Looking to avenge their Friday loss to Saskatchewan, the Cougars burst out of the gate with an early 17-4 run that gave them a double-digit lead late in the first quarter. That lead quickly evaporated as Saskatchewan mounted a 20-3 run of its own, turning what had been a 12-point Regina lead into a five-point advantage for the visitors by the midway mark of the second quarter.

But the Cougars scored the final eight points of the second to take a 39-35 lead into halftime, and after the teams traded leads four times following the break the Cougars went on another 8-0 run to pull ahead for good late in the third. Regina held at least a two-possession lead for the final eight minutes of the game, and a Jonathan Tull layup following a steal followed by two McGowan free throws with 40 seconds left sealed the win.

NOTES: Next weekend's play-in series will mark the sixth consecutive home playoff series that the U of R's opponent has been Winnipeg ... the last time the Cougars hosted any team besides Winnipeg in the postseason was in 2003, when they defeated Brandon in two consecutive games to win the Great Plains Division title and advance to the Canada West Final Four.