It didn't look like it would be Cambridge's day in the first halfJoe Cook

Cambridge men’s basketball Blues have enjoyed a dream start to their season thus far; sitting pretty at the top of the league, with three wins from three and an impressive +86 goal difference accrued in the process, there was an assured atmosphere courtside before the tip off. Oxford Brookes, on the other hand, had only managed to scrape one win this season and languished in fourth position. The stage was set for one more comfortable step on Cambridge’s journey towards promotion to BUCS Midlands 2A. However, Brookes had evidently not read the script and they arrived at the University of Cambridge Sports Centre ready to sweat and fight and put Cambridge under pressure, making for a thrilling encounter on Wednesday evening.

“The guys decided at halftime we were not losing, then they took the game over. It says a lot about the team to grind out a win like this.”

Both teams showed their intent from the get-go. Playing with orange bibs over their usual white and blue jerseys to avoid kit clash, Cambridge won the toss up through the long arms of Blues captain Riccardo Masina, and it wasn’t long before they were ahead. Luka Skorić dextrously stole possession from the advancing Brookes point guard and sent an arcing pass the length of the field to release Ricard Argelaguet who finished the move via the backboard. Oxford immediately went down the other end to hit back, followed by another two basket from the ubiquitous Skorić. 6-2 with only a minute on the clock.

Joseph Adikwu jumps highest to find the basketJoe Cook

With both players and supporters out of breath from such a frenetic start, the game then descended into a succession of scrappy fouls that disrupted the flow of attacking play from either side; both teams defended stoically but continued to trade points as the first quarter continued.

And despite Cambridge’s early lead, it was Brookes who began to pull ahead as the half drew on, scoring three 3-pointers in quick succession and putting on a stalwart show of zonal defending to frustrate the Blues behind the mid court line. The scores sat at 14 points to 22 at the end of the first quarter.

And the second quarter continued as the first had finished. Shot after shot from the Cambridge forwards would kiss the rim of the hoop only to bounce out, and Brookes would counter and rack up points of their own. At the half-time buzzer the scores were 27-38 to Oxford Brookes, and Cambridge looked rattled. An upset looked like it could be on the cards and the Blues could be seen in heated discussion with their coach at half time. However, all was not completely rosy in the Oxford Brookes camp either, with a few of their players visibly feeling the effects of their first half exertions and requiring treatment for early cramps.

Riccardo Masina drives inside the 3-point lineJoe Cook

And as the third quarter commenced, momentum did start to shift. Ricard Argelaguet danced through a forest of defensive arms and legs for the layup followed by a similar basket from Dami Adebayo and Skorić’s fifth, sixth and seventh hoops on what would be a prolific night for the forward. Whenever they found themselves out of possession, the Blues were buoyed up by chants of “defense” from the home bench and when they regained the ball, Brookes couldn’t handle their rampant attack. Blues guard Pete Ferguson, who transitioned excellently with his uncatchable pace and silky dribbling all night pulled Cambridge ahead with 20 minutes left to play: 39-38.

But the Blues couldn’t rest on their laurels just yet as the pendulum began to swing back from whence it came and a flurry of Brookes baskets pulled the Oxford outfit back in front at 43-46. Both teams were working their socks off to keep up with their opponents and neither side could pull out of sight. Brookes continued to show their accomplished three-point game from their sharp-shooting Captain Asad, while Cambridge were too hot to handle on the break – a point perfectly illustrated by the swift counter and herculean slam dunk from Skorić that made it 53-48. Skorić was surely the best player on the court all game, both in his brick-wall defensive play and his game-high number of baskets boasting a final tally of 24 points.


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Time out was called with two minutes to go, with the two teams almost neck-and-neck at 65-64. However, this time Cambridge would keep their noses in front till the very end. A nail-biting final minute that felt like an eternity culminated in a free-throw scored by Pete Ferguson to round off the night at 73-68. The hard-fought win was met with a mixture of jubilation and relief from players and spectators alike. 

Talking to Varsity after the game, Blues coach Tim Weil reflected on the never-say-day attitude and determination of his team: “The guys decided at halftime we were not losing, then they took the game over. It says a lot about the team to grind out a win like this. At halftime we talked about focusing on our defense and fighting on every possession. The response (a 12 to nothing run to start the second half) shows the kind of team we are, tough and determined. The key was ratcheting up our defensive intensity. Brooks had some shifty guards, but we frustrated them in the second half. We won the mental chess match and they lost their cool in the end. Good teams make big plans in big moments, we did that today." The Blues will be looking to take their good form into next week when they host the University of Lincoln in the Last-16 of the Midlands Conference Cup.

Blues Team:
Riccardo  Masina (Capt)
Dami Adebayo
Ashley Priddey
Jonas Fuksa
Aleix Lafita
Shuowang He
Joseph Adikwu
Ricard Argelaguet
Pete Ferguson
Luka Skorić

Coach:  Tim Weil

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