Two wins over Westminster from Utah

October 19th, 2014

Mariners sweep Griffins

Scott McKenzie / Daily News

It is still just exhibition, but the VIU Mariners men's basketball team is looking promising with back-to-back wins over Utah's Westminster College Griffins.

The Mariners, coming off an 18-point loss to the UFV Cascades two weeks ago, beat Westminster 86-77 in overtime Friday night before doing the same in regulation Saturday afternoon, 88-75. "It was a good weekend for us," said VIU head coach Matt Kuzminski.

"They were a very physical team. .. It was hard to get into our actions, but I thought the guys were resilient and stuck with the plan and were able to play OK."

In both wins, senior Justin King, a newcomer to the Mariners, led the team in scoring. He had 30 points and 16 rebounds Friday night, and finished Saturday's game with 27 points. VIU senior forward Jason Fortin, who had 12 rebounds Friday night and finished the weekend with a combined 14 points, said it was a positive experience for his team.

"They were a pretty good team from the states - really aggressive - so I thought that was something good for us because we've just been playing against ourselves during practice," he said.

"It's good to see different faces and just play against a different style."

Kuzminski said after losing to UFV two weeks ago, there was a "big improvement" in the level the Mariners played at against Westminster.

"If we would've played the way we did this weekend, we would have had a chance to win that game (against UFV)," he said.

"From the defensive side of the ball, the energy and the effort was better. Our positioning, coverages, we're slowly improving, but we've still got a ways to go."

Westminster, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in the United States, went 11-5 in conference play, so it was a solid test for a VIU team that has aspirations to win a national championship.

Fortin, who was a member of the VIU 2013 national championship team, is bullish on the roster he'll play his final season of college basketball with this year.

"I think we've always had really skilled teams, but there's something different about this team," Fortin said. "Everyone's on the same page, everyone's headed in the same direction and no one's going against the grain. We've got a bunch of really good guys in there, and it's just a really close-knit team."

The Mariners are now three quarters of the way through their exhibition schedule, with only a tournament in Seattle this weekend remaining.

The 2014-15 PacWest men's basketball season opens Oct. 30 with VIU hosting Camosun.