The Saskatchewan Rattlers handed the Vancouver Bandits a 109-85 beat down in their season opener at SaskTel Centre on Wednesday night (May 31).
The Rattlers connected on 22 threes in the blowout victory after the squad let loose 51 attempts. Five Saskatchewan players buried at least a trio of threes, all of whom reached double figures.
New acquisition Justin Wright-Foreman tallied 23 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals on 7-11 shooting from the field and 4-5 from three in his CEBL debut. The former Utah Jazz draft pick did all that in just 21 minutes of action because he left the game in the third quarter with an injury.
Rattlers’ forward Jermel Kennedy also contributed 22 points in the win after hitting a team-high six threes. Returning guard Michael Nuga scored 20 points, including the game-winner, while Drake Jeffries and Malik Benlevi added 14 points and 13 points respectively.
“Guys gave me the ball where I needed it and I was just ready to shoot,” Kennedy said. “Being ready was probably the most important thing today.”
Bandits’ big man Nick Ward was a bright spot in the loss and provided a forceful presence in the paint. Ward netted 22 points on 6-9 shooting from the field and 10-15 from the free-throw line to go along with 13 rebounds. Giorgi Bezhanishvili chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Malcolm Duvivier also secured a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
After scoring 30 points in the season opener, DJ Steward struggled from the field on Wednesday with 12 points on 6-20 shooting from the floor. Former Rattler Alex Campbell also reached double figures for the Bandits with 13 points.
Three-point shooting and turnovers were the biggest difference statistically in the contest. The Rattlers shot 43 per cent from long range at a high volume, while the Bandits finished at 25 per cent from three. Vancouver also had 17 turnovers in the loss.
“I think we didn't do anything well in this game,” Bandits’ assistant coach Junior Cadougan said. “We need to just throw this game away and focus on the things that we need to do to get better and get ready for that home stretch.”
In the first quarter, Saskatchewan showed that they were ready to fire at will from long range. After Vancouver took a very early 4-2 lead, the Rattlers answered with three consecutive triples from Wright-Foreman, Jeffries and Kennedy. Despite Ward putting in work for the Bandits on the low block and the free-throw line as a result, Saskatchewan carried a 25-22 lead after 10 minutes.
Wright-Foreman hit another corner three to open the second quarter scoring and continued to impact the game just days after arriving in Saskatoon. Throughout the quarter, the Bandits kept getting close but the Rattlers would answer from beyond the arc. Saskatchewan ended the half on a 13-4 run and took a 52-38 lead into the locker room.
Saskatchewan hit 11 of 25 threes they attempted in the opening 20 minutes, with Wright-Foreman leading all scorers with 16 points in addition to 6 assists and 3 steals. The Rattlers forced 10 Vancouver turnovers and the Bandits shot just 25 per cent from three.
Wright-Foreman opened the scoring again in the third quarter and Saskatchewan continued to hit from three. Benlevi, Nuga, Kennedy and Jeffries all hit from long distance and extended the Rattlers' lead to 81-58 heading into the final frame. However, Wright-Foreman left the game in the third quarter after taking a hit to the eye.
In the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan stayed hot and kept any hopes of a Bandits comeback at bay. Kennedy, Nuga, and Jeffries hit from three again before back-to-back buckets from Anthony Tsegakele took Saskatchewan into target score time with a 99-69 lead.
The Bandits showed some late fight and outscored the Rattlers 16-10 in target time. However, Benlevi and Nuga each scored twice to allow Saskatchewan to hit their target. The Rattlers start the season 1-0 while Vancouver drops to 0-2.
Following Wednesday’s game, Vancouver will return to the Langley Events Centre for their home opener on Saturday night against the Calgary Surge. The Rattlers will travel to Niagara for a matchup with the River Lions on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.