BY DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
It was as close as you can come to defensive perfection, and it helped the Winnipeg Wesmen dominate their crosstown rivals.
The Wesmen women's basketball team outscored the Manitoba Bisons 24-2 in a decisive third quarter, Antoinette Miller dropped 40 points and the Wesmen rolled to an 86-66 win Friday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
The win helped the Wesmen take a bit step toward a comeback in the annual Duckworth Challenge, the annual crosstown clash that the U of W would eventually secure for the first time in five years.
Miller hit 40 points for the second time this season and added 14 rebounds for the Wesmen, who led 41-36 after a back-and-forth first half in which the largest deficit either team faced was five points.
But the Wesmen broke out in the third quarter, going on a 24-0 run that was stunted only by Brittanie Parisien runner with six seconds left, which stood as the Bisons only points of the quarter. Winnipeg took that 65-38 lead into the fourth and stretched the lead to as many as 32 in the fourth.
"We had the lead (at half) and once we had that, I said let's keep climbing and we kept climbing and that was it," Miller said.
"It starts from the beginning of how we play. If I feel like the team is slacking, then I've got to pick up the slack. I think we got a little scared, so no matter how I was feeling I had to show up. If that means dropping 40 points, then that means dropping 40 points."
The Wesmen weren't driven merely by Miller's brilliance: Faith Hezekiah was equally as impressive, scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, the second highest total she's posted this season. The Wesmen outrebounded Manitoba 59-41 on the night.
Miller made a layup with 3:36 to go to give her 40 for the night and went to the bench seconds later, having logged 34 minutes and having topped 30 points in scoring for the sixth time this season.
Miller, who was named the Canada West player of the year last year, never scored more than 27 points in a game prior to this season, but she's posted gaudy totals that are rivaled by very few, if anyone, in U SPORTS basketball this season.
Miller was also last year's conference and national defensive player of the year, and credited her defence with swinging the momentum.
"Our defence. Our defence is what matters on our team," Miller said. "I think we take pride in our defence, which goes to our offence. If we're doing really good on defence, we get a steal, then we can fastbreak and get a score. I think transition is our game, so if we play really good defence then our offence will be good."
Taylor Randall led the Bisons with 29 points and Emma Thompson added 10.
The Wesmen won their ninth in a row to improve to 11-4, while the Bisons lost for the third straight time to fall to 8-9.
The two teams meet again Saturday night at 5 p.m.