There was plenty of madness and mayhem to open the first weekend of the 2022 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Championships. With 50 Canadians participating in this year’s March Madness, there was lots of Canadian content to go around, but performances from Shaina Pellington and Bennedict Mathurin for their respective teams in Arizona stood just a little above the rest.
Pellington, a 22-year-old Pickering native, exploded for a game-high 30 points in Arizona’s 72-67 victory over UNLV on Saturday. The four-seeded Wildcats used a dominant fourth quarter where they outscored the 13-seeded UNLV Rebels 24-14 to notch the win and move on to the Sweet Sixteen. Pellington and teammate Cate Reese scored 22 of the team’s 24 points in the final quarter as the Wildcats used a strong defensive effort to finally shake the Rebels after a slow start in the first half.
“When the game was on the line, we needed to come together as a team and get some stops,” Pellington told the Canadian Press. “We needed to connect stops with scores and that’s what we did.”
Pellington shot 10-for-19 from the floor, 2-for-6 from beyond the arc and 8-for-13 from the free throw line. She added four assists, four steals and three rebounds in 32 minutes as her 30 points tied a career-high.
Earlier this week, TSN highlighted some of Pellington’s career thus far.
The starting guard for the Wildcats represented Canada at the 2020 Olympics, as well as in the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup where Canada finished fourth. Pellington was the team’s second leading scorer in the 2021 AmeriCup.
In men’s action, Montreal native Bennedict Mathurin saved the day in the team’s 85-80 overtime victory against the TCU Horned Frogs on Sunday. With 12 seconds remaining and the Wildcats trailing by three, Mathurin came away with an offensive rebound and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key to force overtime.
The 19-year-old Pac-12 Player of the Year and second-team All-American selection scored six more points in overtime, outscoring TCU himself in the extra session, as the No. 1 seeded Wildcats held the Horned Frogs to just five points in overtime to seal the victory. Mathurin shot 8-for-19 from the floor, including 11-for-13 from the free throw line as he added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in 41 minutes of action.
While it was his late game heroics that led highlight reels, that wasn’t his only play lighting up social media on Sunday. Check out this throwdown midway through the second quarter.
After the game, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd told the media he was confident when the ball left Mathurin’s hands on his three-pointer to force overtime.
“I honestly felt really good when he had the ball in his hands there,” Lloyd said. Ben’s not afraid of the moment. He’s a special player who has an ability to rise up another level when needed. He has that clutch gene.”
Mathurin starred for Canada at the 2021 FIBA U-19 World Cup in Latvia last summer, averaging 16.1 points for the tournament, including a 31-point performance in Canada’s 101-92 win against Serbia in the bronze medal game.
Elsewhere around the NCAA, Zach Edey’s Purdue Boilermakers are on to the Sweet Sixteen after an 81-71 victory over the Texas Longhorns. Edey also had 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in Purdue’s 78-56 win against Yale on Friday.
After dishing out 11 assists in Gonzaga’s 93-72 victory against the Georgia State Panthers on Thursday, Andrew Nembhard had 23 points and five assists in Gonzaga’s 82-78 win against the ninth-seeded Memphis Tigers on Saturday to help Gonzaga advance and continue its championship quest.
The Gonzaga women’s team fell to the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals on Sunday, but Yvonne Ejim had 14 points and six rebounds in the team’s first round win against Nebraska on Friday, while Aaliyah Edwards had seven points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals as the second-seeded UConn Huskies defeated 15-seed Mercer 83-38 on Saturday.
With upsets already on the board and the competition only getting tougher from here, this year’s tournaments promise to feature many more shining moments along the way.