The Blues seemed to be at a noticeable physical disadvantage in comparison with the sheer size and muscle of the Northumbria squad who, clad in menacing black and red, seemed to tower over our players in white. Indeed, pure brute force enabled the visitors to dominate from the tip-off and immediately force the Blues onto a defensive footing. Blues forward Shaan Dalwadi soon retaliated, however, with a couple of energetic layup shots that prevented Northumbria from developing any substantial lead by the end of the first quarter. In fact, when Paul Nnaoji received a pass in space and attempted a long range shot it put the Blues 11-10 ahead of Northumbria, the Northumbria coach promptly called a time out, and was heard shouting at his team for not “playing tough enough”.
In the second quarter, Northumbria definitely upped their aggression, and at one point sent Karolis Bauza crashing into the benches on the side-line. The score remained tight throughout the quarter, thanks in no small part to the shooting prowess of Blues guard Alberto Gerones, but Northumbria just managed to sneak into the lead and maintain a slight difference throughout the quarter, meaning Oxford were constantly playing catch-up.
The Blues were great at spreading the play and using the width of the court, whereas Northumbria’s offensive movement was much more central. But when Northumbria were awarded a free throw for a foul against one of their players, bringing the score up to 36-23 in their favour, the Blues began to look panicked and called a time-out with five minutes to go.
When they returned Gerones delighted the crowd by scoring two three-pointers in quick succession to bring Oxford back into contention.
In the final quarter it seemed as though Northumbria were taking no prisoners and bombarded the Blues with relentless attacking play. With their opponents seemingly always one step ahead, the Blues squad were beginning to look fatigued and demotivated. Northumbria’s greater size was also having a significant impact, making it difficult for Oxford players to get a clear shot at goal, and allowed the visitors to extend their lead to 82-55 with just five minutes left.
Oxford made a valiant effort to close the gap in the dying stages of the match. Dalwadi delighted crowds by scoring twice from close range and an attempted slam-dunk almost made it a third with just seconds left on the clock.
However it all proved to be just a little too late for the Blues, making the final result 60-92 to Northumbria, a score which is not entirely reflective of the quality of play the Blues displayed in the opening half of the match.