A disastrous second-quarter defensive performance from the University of St Andrews Men’s Basketball first team saw them fall to a 52-50 home defeat against the University of Abertay last week.
Saints, who had won their last two league games, started the game slowly and soon found themselves 6-2 down. A 10-2 run from the home team in the last few minutes of the first quarter gave them an early 12-8 lead but it was Abertay who impressed most. It was a clever performance from the team from just across the Tay, as they made up for what they lacked in skill, speed or technique with physicality and the ability to constantly frustrate St Andrews’ more expansive style of play.
That physicality paid dividends in the second period, with Abertay scoring seven points in the opening 90 seconds, and 16 in the first five minutes to put Saints firmly on the back foot. With Abertay 24-18 up, St Andrews called a timeout and managed a basket immediately after to draw the sides nearer but that was as good as things got for a long time. Four consecutive missed free throws, which would have tied the game, gave Abertay all the encouragement they needed as they put up five baskets in the closing stages compared to just one three from the home side, meaning that the four-point advantage St Andrews had held was an 11 point disadvantage by the time the whistle went for half time.
A few harsh words from the St Andrews coach about moving the ball around more were not misplaced – it often seemed in the second period as though the home team were very much waiting for opportunities to appear rather than trying to create some with movement and hand speed, both areas in which they possessed significant advantages over the opposition.
A quick two gave Saints some hope in the early going of the third, but a couple of quick-fire Abertay baskets pushed their lead out to a game-high 14 points. After a lull in scoring, St Andrews seemed to find their rhythm and spurred on by a six-point haul by Andrew Buchanan they finished the game’s third period only five points behind and within a shot of securing victory.
However, it was not to be. A 5-2 start to the final quarter made it a one-point game, only for Abertay to push things back out to 50-47 with a couple of minutes left. A deep three with 38.8 seconds on the clock made the scores all square for the first time since the early second quarter but Abertay forced a foul with a little under seven seconds remaining.
Their power forward sunk both pressure shots to make it 52-50 and they rode out a last-gasp attack by Saints to secure the victory and complete the double, having beaten St Andrews 64-62 when the sides first met back in October.
If Abertay’s biggest strength was their size and ability to impose it, St Andrews’ biggest weakness was their performance from the free-throw line. The physicality shown by Abertay gave them countless opportunities, 16 in all, but they landed just four. A success rate of 25 per cent is well below par and noticeably below usual Saints standards, and if even half of those shots had gone in they would have walked away victorious from a game they could and should have tasted victory in.
Saints return to action on Wednesday 14 February, when they host bottom of the table Dundee, who were forced to forfeit two games in November after being unable to field a team.