The Irish champions looked sharp in moments but there was quite the early season vibe to UCD Marian’s win over DCU Saints. Emmet Ryan on the return of the Irish hoops season
There were a few noticeable changes as UCD Marian returned to the floor as Irish champions for the first time in 40 years. On home court, against cross-city rivals DCU Saints, they were announced as the reigning champions by Paul Meany. The jerseys were updated, with a changed to a halfway vertical striped kit with the team name in two tones of blue. The top of the back of the jerseys featured the Bumbelance charity but the most significant switch was the subtlest.
The Lucey Fund logo, representing the investment business that has backed over 140 companies, on the lower right leg of the shorts, indicating that long-time fan of the club Ian Lucey had come on board as a sponsor.
The game was lively enough to begin with although it was unusual to see Mike Bonaparte and Conroy Baltimore in DCU Saints blue, let alone as teammates, having joined from Templeogue and GCD Swords Thunder in the off-season. The first quarter was basically dominated by the home side although the scoreboard didn’t show it due to some clear failings in making the most of the work they were putting in.
Cameron Smith, a new arrival from Dartmouth, had plenty of energy throughout and his debut didn’t lack aggression despite being a common problem with first-year imports in this league. At times however his work rate surpassed his need for calm.
Not long after making his first field goal as a pro, showed that same touch of excessive exuberance. Some great work to cut inside let him open for a score but his effort at a dunk rimmed out. He made the call that touch too late when the lay-up was there. A buddy to the right went “he’s coming out for that” and, sure enough, at the next stoppage he was back out for Mike Garrow.
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That raw touch aside, it was good first outing for the rookie. On a side that plays a chaotic pace on offence, he’s going to need that confidence and energy. He brought plenty of both, the Ivy League graduate will have to work out how to manage them as the season progresses.
Saints stuck with the home side through the half pretty comfortably, only trailing by 6 at the break. The amusing touch of this league, where songs are played uncensored, led to the teams returning to the sound of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. The other touch would catch some observers really off guard is the nature of the floors. With a lot of these arenas shared, none have quite the mix of Belfield.
The mix includes volleyball and handball, both of which are rare enough in Ireland, badminton, and three others of which one may be indoor football although it’s unclear but that’s definitely played there. It’s quite a mix. The red lines are for basketball, that’s the one thing to be sure of while watching.
In any event, DCU hung with the home side through the third although the pace was noticeably picking back up towards the tail end of the frame. That was a big hint as to what was about to happen.
One 9-0 run was all it took for UCD Marian to kill this one off. It saw them briefly look on course to cover the spread because, for the first time in a really long time, there are odds being offered on Irish hoops regularly.
Most bookies had run away years ago but one bookie, the first half whose name rhymes with Debt and second half is the number of days in the year (hey, we’re cool with betting but you’ve got to pay us to plug a bookie) was even offering in-play betting. That’s definitely new for this market.
As it was, UCD didn’t cover the 13.5 point spread but still looked comfortable after that run with DCU never looking in anything close to a sufficient position to challenge. A Bonaparte three ensured some respectability on the score but the absence of Martin Provisors on the night, a top end player in this league, was felt as there was never the second power option to really hurt with the front court.
There was a little bit of Kyrie Irving in Conor Meany’s drive to round things off for UCD at the end of proceedings. In the end it was a clear win, one that showed more depth in the UCD roster than the title winning season, but also one that clearly needs a bit of work. Liapakis was, by his standards, quite happy at the buzzer.
Reaction from UCD Marian coach Ioannis Liapakis after his side’s win over DCU Saints pic.twitter.com/cNAm79D7CU
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- With the league being one of the easiest to watch online, between Basketball Ireland and the clubs involved doing streams. The big one online to kick off the evening slate was the Cork derby between newly promoted Neptune and UCC Demons. The home side couldn’t match the high scoring runs of their rivals as Demons took the win 88-100 on the road. The win for Demons wasn’t a huge surprise although it’s still going to be a big boon for them after they came off a rough season in 2017/18 and faced a heap of questions entering this one.
- Tralee Warriors, famed for their big crowds, hosted Killorglin in the Kerry derby and they got yet another full house but the result was not to their liking. After a real ding-dong battle, Tralee managed to push into a 10 point lead early in the fourth but Killorglin rallied hard and came away with a big road win. Like Neptune, that’s a newly promoted side and they got a win over a side that took the Champions Trophy last season and has serious title aspirations for this season. That’s a good way to make your debut in the Superleague.
- I didn’t see a second of the other games but there were wins for Killester over Thunder, Templeogue over Belfast Star, and the Galway derby saw Moycullen beat Maree.
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