By Thomas Becker
UPEI's basketball teams are off to hot starts and they're hoping to continue their inspired play into the weekend against the Saint Mary's Huskies.
The women's Panthers (3-1) look to take advantage of a winless Huskies squad that has struggled to contain its opposition and allow a league-high 77.3 points per game.
That bodes well for UPEI's duo threat Reese Baxendale and Jenna Mae Ellsworth, who are third and fourth in scoring with a combined 36 points per game, which accounts for over 50 per cent of the team's offensive production.
With the 0-4 Huskies coming to town, it's easy to think sweep, but head coach Matt Gamblin refuses to look that far ahead as he's dialed in on Friday's matchup.
"We're not thinking about a weekend sweep, we're just thinking about the one game in front of us on Friday," he said. "After that let's hope we're a little bit better on Saturday. One day at a time."
That mindset is built on wanting to improve his team each day, especially with championship aspirations on the line. Their lone loss last Friday only confirmed the fact there's a lot of work that needs to be done to capture that AUS title at the end of it all.
"It's early in the season but every game is extremely important," Gamblin said. "We need to be locked in at all times, every single possession."
On the men's side, the Panthers have taken the league by storm and so far have proven critics wrong. With their 3-1 record, they sit second in the standings with only the undefeated 3-0 Huskies ahead of them, setting up an intriguing test for both squads this weekend.
Boasting a balanced attack with four players averaging double-figure points, UPEI doesn't lack confidence in their ability, which stems from head coach Darrell Glenn's belief in them.
"I have never entered a game with this team that I didn't believe we could win," Glenn said. "Our strength is our guard play and our ability to get to the rim. And when we put our energy and mind to it, we're a pretty good defensive team too."
The Panthers have passed every test so far, surpassing expectations along the way. But Saint Mary's presents their toughest matchup to date and this weekend's battle will give fans a better look at where their team stands amongst the AUS elite.
"Saint Mary's is a very talented team. We have to keep them out of the paint and we have to do an excellent job of defensive rebounding," Glenn said. "To be successful, we have take care of the ball, score in transition and guard the three-point line effectively."
The games begin this Friday (Nov. 16) at 6 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men.
*Campus Food Bank Drive
Panther fans are invited to drop off non-perishable food items to the UPEI Sports Centre or at both Men's/Women's Basketball home doubleheaders this weekend versus Saint Mary's. All contributions are appreciated!