Toronto have lost four straight games. PHOTO BY JENNA HUM/THE VARSITY BLUES

The Varsity Blues men’s basketball team dropped a tough 95–84 decision to the visiting Windsor Lancers on the night of Saturday, November 24 at the Athletic Centre, representing the second loss for the Blues this weekend, following their six-point defeat to the Western Mustangs the night before.

The Blues opened the game on a 13–2 run as Iñaki Alvarez took a charge on the opening possession and Nikola Paradina drilled three straight three-pointers, representing nine of his team-high 20 points on the night.

While a couple of Blues turnovers would allow the Lancers to cut the lead to just four points midway through, the Blues surged ahead and returned their lead to 12 with three minutes remaining, off of a steal and fast break layup from Alvarez and another two and three from Daniel Johansson and Eli Mouyal for good measure. Toronto ended the first quarter up 21–15.

The second quarter, however, would see momentum shift into the Lancers’ hands. The Lancers’ Telloy Simon converted a fast break layup off a Blues turnover to tie it at 23 with seven minutes left, while Anthony Zrvnar gave the visitors their first lead of the game on a fast break dunk a minute later.

Windsor pushed their lead to 13 on an 11–2 run capped by quick transition baskets and high-percentage points in the paint. The home squad, however, would stay composed throughout, and buckets by Blues veterans Christopher Barrett, Dillon Rejman, and Paradina would shrink the lead to a manageable seven points heading into halftime, 43–36.

Windsor again would push out of the halftime break, upping their lead to 15 on an 8–0 run just two minutes into the quarter. At this point, Toronto’s Evan Shadkami took matters into his own hands, single-handedly shifting the momentum into his Blues’ favour.

He hit a much-needed three-pointer and then took an open-floor charge defending Windsor’s guard Damian Persaud in the back court the next possession. On the ensuing Blues offensive possession, Shadkami drew a foul on a shot attempt beyond the arc and drained all three foul shots, part of a 16-point effort overall.

The Blues rode the wave and continued to convert, as Johansson — who posted team highs of 12 boards and five assists — drained a sweet baby hook in the paint and Paradina dropped a bunny on the left block off a nice find from Johansson, to cut the lead to just five points with six minutes left in the period.

The teams went back and forth and fans were treated to some spectacular offensive displays from both sides. Several Windsor players hit highly-contested threes, while Alvarez willed his way to the basket on four straight occasions, including a buzzer beater. He scored nine straight points for the Blues as the third quarter winded down and the lead was cut down to seven heading into the last quarter.

The Blues opened the final period on a 7–0 run to tie it at 70 a piece just over a minute and a half in. The teams traded buckets yet again and Toronto tied it for a second time at 77–77, off a Shadkami-and-one bucket.

Shadkami’s free throw opportunity gave the Blues the chance to go ahead, but he missed, and it would not be. Windsor hit a second gear as the Blues appeared to run out of gas, and the Lancers pulled away on a game-closing 18–7 run to make the final score 95–84 in the visitors’ favour. Windsor scored 38 points in the paint on the night.

Blues’ assistant coach Mike De Giorgio was pleased with the way the team “responded to adversity” and “showed some good fight” but was disappointed in his squad’s defensive efforts, saying it would be a focus in this week’s practices leading up to the team’s road game at Lakehead University this coming Saturday.

The Blues have now lost four straight after a solid opening start to the regular season where they were 3–2 in their first five contests. This Saturday’s game in Thunder Bay against the Lakehead Thunderwolves is Toronto’s final one before the semester break.

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