Before the game even started, the spotlight was on Jeff Jordan, the son of some former NBA player named Michael. However, during most of the 40 minutes at Loyola Gym, Stingers brothers Dwayne and Damian Buckley proved that they had the best genes on the court.
The brothers, entering their third season together with the Stingers, led all players in scoring and took the defending Quebec champion Stingers to a 86-82 victory over the University of Illinois’ Fighting Illini.
“Every game that we are scheduled to play, we come out to win,” said Dwayne who had 28 points and four rebounds while his younger brother Damian had 24 points and nine assists. “They are a Division-One school, but we feel we can play with anyone,” he said.
It was Concordia’s first win over a school in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) top division in 10 tries dating back to the 2005-2006 season. It was only their second win in 13 tries overall against NCAA schools – their other win coming last October against New York Tech.
“They came out with a lot of emotion, hit tough shots and fed off of the emotion of the crowd,” said Illinois coach Bruce Weber. “They beat us. You have to give them a lot of credit.”
The game was sold out days before the teams hit the court and the 600 mostly pro-Concordia crowd got louder as the game continued, especially when the possibility of a victory became within reach.
“They were impressive,” Weber said. “The Buckley brothers played very well, but it wasn’t just them. Their other guys stepped up when they needed them to make shots. Hopefully our guys look at this game and learn something from it, because that’s why we decided to make this trip,” he said.
The Stingers trailed early in the first half 21-9, but rallied back to take a 40-39 halftime lead. They exploded in the second half, taking a 78-60 lead with five minutes to go in the final quarter after a Dwayne Buckley three-pointer.
“When we came back to make it 21-19, it showed our guys that we could compete with them,” said Stingers head coach John Dore. “I think that people have to look at Canadian university basketball now,” Dore continued. “Canadians seem to think that everything is better south of the border but that’s not necessarily true,” he said.
The Jordan Story
Perhaps John Dore said it best when asked whether playing against Jeff Jordan, the son of arguably the NBA’s greatest player, was something they thought about.
“It wasn’t like we were going to play against his father, thankfully,” Dore said. “We just saw him as No. 13 and treated him like any other player,” he continued.
The oldest of the Jordan sons, Jeff decided to apply to the University of Illinois and was accepted on academic merit.
The freshman psychology major is playing for the Illini was a walk-on, which means he is not on a basketball scholarship to the university. He played 15 minutes and had seven points and three rebounds in the loss.
Gallier the Warrior
The biggest lift for the Concordia faithful was when six-foot-seven-inch centre Jamal Gallier returned to the Stingers bench with a bandage around his head. Gallier collided mid-air with Illinois centre Shaun Pruitt and hit his head against the court. He left the court for several minutes while Concordia medical staff tried to stop the bleeding. Upon his return to the Stingers bench the crowd let out a roar and an even louder one when he returned to the court.
Gallier and Desmond Murphy were also key parts in stopping Pruitt. Pruitt had declared for last year’s NBA draft but pulled out. He was projected to be a second round pick and could be a first round pick this year.
Pruitt led the Illini in scoring with 16 points, had eight rebounds but fouled out of the game with 5:15 remaining. Murphy and Gallier made him change his shot several times and made him work for his rebounds which then led to fouls.
Another scary moment for the Stingers was in the final minute of the game when Damian Buckley collided with a teammate and subsequently fell to the court. Buckley did not return for the final 43 seconds but seemed to be alright after the game.