SASKATOON – It’s been a tough season at times for the University of Saskatchewan men’s basketball team, but despite their struggles the Huskies still control their own playoff destiny.
“I guess we’d have to consider ourselves a bit fortunate to be in this position, in that we’re still alive, whereas maybe we shouldn’t be at this point in time,” said head coach Barry Rawlyk.
Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey having best regular season in 16 years
Huskies’ McVeigh getting comfortable after journeyman WHL career
2 reserves on Huskies women’s basketball bench shining bright
“We’ve been right there in every game too,” added fifth-year guard Evan Ostertag. “That’s kind of the thing that’s keeping us going. We know we can play with anybody and now it’s kind of worked out that we have a chance to extend our season.”
The Huskies sit ninth in the Canada West Pioneer Division however they can grab one of the division’s seven playoff spots by running the table over their final four regular season games.
“We just have to block out all the distractions and just think about one game at a time. ‘What do we need to do tonight?’ and then move on to the next one,” Ostertag said.
The Huskies’ 6-10 record may not look pretty but what it doesn’t show is that half of their 16 games have been decided by five points or less. While Saskatchewan’s record in those contests is just 3-5, the team is hopeful the experience of playing so many close contests will come in handy down the stretch.
“I think we’re learning from it. As a young team there’s something to be said for having to make sure that you’re maintaining your focus for 40 minutes,” said Rawlyk. “In every situation, in every adversity there’s something to be learned and something to be gained from it.”
READ MORE: Huskies defenseman transitions from motorcycle racing to hockey
The Dogs have also added reinforcements in the form of power forward Shane Osayande, who’s averaging a double-double with 12.8 points and 10 rebounds in eight games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the first half of the season.
“It was really tough just to be watching. I really wanted to play. You know I put in a lot of work and it was tough but I have great coaches and great teammates that helped me get through it,” Osayande said.
“We’ve really missed him and I guess it’s amplified by the absence of Matt Forbes,” said Rawlyk, referring to the Huskies fifth-year centre who was lost for the year after suffering a foot injury during the pre-season.
“Shane’s still not 100 per cent but he’s been contributing every way that he’s been able to and you look at his numbers, it’s pretty obvious how valuable he’s been.”
Saskatchewan will need Osayande to continue his strong play this weekend when they host the Alberta Golden Bears. The Huskies trail the Bears by six points and need to sweep the series to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Alberta’s a great team, well coached. By getting a great start (it) gives us the momentum, the confidence that we can play with the best of the best,” Osayande said.
The Huskies and Golden Bears square off at 8 p.m. CT Friday and Saturday at the PAC. The women play at 6:15 p.m. both nights.