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Huskies guard Nikita Kasongo (Chateauguay, PQ) hits a jump shot over Dalhousie Tigers forward Shamar Burrows during a 86-60 Tigers win on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2022. (Photo by Nick Pearce / SMU Huskies athletics)
Huskies guard Nikita Kasongo (Chateauguay, PQ) hits a jump shot over Dalhousie Tigers forward Shamar Burrows during a 86-60 Tigers win on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2022. (Photo by Nick Pearce / SMU Huskies athletics)

Kasongo posts 20-point double-double in 86-60 loss to #6 ranked Tigers


By Allan April / SMU Huskies Athletics

The Saint Mary's men's basketball team had a challenging task ahead of them in their return to play on Saturday night, as the Huskies hosted the U SPORTS #6 ranked Dalhousie Tigers at the Homburg Centre. 

It was the first time Saint Mary's hosted the 'Battle of Halifax' in more than two years, with the Tigers last visiting the Huskies on January 22, 2020. The long-delayed return of the rivalry was actually delayed by one additional night as the game was postponed from Friday night due to a windstorm caused power outage. 

On Saturday night, it was Tigers guard Alex Carson (Lower Sackville, NS) who shot the lights out, as he poured in a game-high 23 points on just 10 field goal attempts in a 86-60 victory.

The Tigers got off to a hot start, led by Carson who scored 7 points in the first 3:35 to give his team an early 12-4 lead.

That's when Huskies guard Nikita Kasongo (Chateauguay, QC) took over. The 2017-18 CIS Rookie of the Year put on a personal highlight reel as he put up 10 points, three rebounds and a steal over a four minutes stretch of action, capped off by back-to-back deep three's to give the Huskies their first lead of the game, 15-14. 

A pair of first years – guard Jayrell Diggs (East Preston, NS) and forward Jackson Ennyina (Port Harcourt, Nigeria) came off the bench to hit a three and a lay-up, giving the Huskies 20-16 lead heading into the second quarter. Saint Mary's shooting was they key, as the Huskies shot 7/14 (50%) from the field, including 3/5 (60%) from beyond the arc. 

Kasongo hit another deep three early in the second quarter to give the Huskies a 23-16 lead. However, the size advantage of the Tigers lineup (all five starters over 6'4"), started to wear on the Huskies, as the Tigers began hitting layups and forcing the Huskies guards into foul trouble. The Tigers went on a 20-3 run from 7:56 to 1:18 remaining in the second quarter, led by dominant play on both ends by 2019-20 AUS MVP Keevan Veinot (Port Williams, NS) and capped off by a Carson three.

The Huskies trailed 38-30 before Kasongo tipped in a missed three, leading to the last possession of the half, where guard Shae Linton-Brown (Toronto, ON) stripped Veinot and sprinted to the other end of the quarter just in time to beat the buzzer with a lay-up, cutting the Tigers lead to 38-34 at the half.  Despite the end of quarter heroics, the Tigers outscored the Huskies 22-14 in the quarter, and shot 7/11 (64%) from the field. 

Kasongo led all scorers in the first half with 15 points and 5 rebounds, while Diggs and Jace Colley (East Preston, N.S.) chipped in 6 points each. The Tigers were led by the sweet shooting of Carson who scored 14 points on just 5 field goal attempts, while Veinot added 9 points and 4 rebounds and forward Sam Wade (Wallace, NS) scored 6.

The Tigers continued their strong play to begin the second quarter, with another Carson three-pointer giving them a 54-41 lead with 3:15 remaining. Another Kasongo tip-in lay-up kept the lead at 13 late in the second quarter, but Tigers guard Nginyu Ngala (Montreal, QC) answered with a lay-up in the dying seconds of the quarter to give the Tigers their largest lead to that point, 63-48 heading into the fourth. 

Early in the fourth quarter the Huskies offense looked to be coming alive, as Diggs and Mitchell combined to score quick points. But any hope of a Huskies comeback was immediately extinguished by the scoring of Ngala and Shamar Burrows (Nassau, Bahamas), who each scored 8 points in the fourth quarter, including several highlight plays each.

In the dying seconds of the game, Huskies guard Aleksa Ristic (Kragujevac, Serbia), making his Huskies debut hit a pair of free throws for his first career U SPORTS points.

The Tigers were led by Subway AUS Player of the Game Alex Carson, who scored a game high 23 points including 4/5 shooting from three. All-star Keevan Veinot continued his strong play with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, and the Tigers got big contributions off the bench from Burrows, with 14 points and 4 rebounds and Ngala, who added 10 points and 5 rebounds.

With the win the Tigers improve to 8-2 on the season, and sweep their regular season series against the Huskies 2-0. The Tigers will next hit the road to take on the UPEI Panthers (6-4) in a pair of games next weekend.

The Huskies were led all night by Kasongo who had a 20 point, 12 rebound double-double. No other Huskies player scored in double figured, with Mitchell and Diggs scoring 9 points a piece.

With their fifth consecutive loss, the Huskies record drops to 5-5 on the season. They'll look to snap the losing streak next weekend, as they host the 1-8 Acadia Axemen Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Homburg Centre, before travelling to Wolfville on Sunday for the second half of a weekend home-and-home.