Edinburgh Uni coach fears Christmas has harmed honours bid

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Edinburgh University’s quest for men’s basketball honours may be severely tested this weekend.

They play reviving champions Falkirk Fury away at the Mariner Sports Centre tonight at 8pm and on Sunday when they host an Edinburgh Kings side who could be significantly stronger than earlier in the season. That game goes on at the EU Centre of Sport and Excellence at the Pleasance (11.20am).

An overlong Christmas break has already dented University’s fine run when, without five regulars including former Kings junior Calum Nicol and with the others showing distinct signs of “rust”, they lost 73-67 to Glasgow Storm.

EU coach Danny Costello is fearful his side, who are already through to the Scottish Cup final at the end of the month, may struggle to maintain their league challenge – at present they are on three defeats, the same as Fury and one worse than Boroughmuir Blaze and Glasgow University.

“I’m seriously concerned. Some of the players have just returned and haven’t practised for a month,” said Costello, who has struggled to find court time for his squad.

Kings, however, have their own problems this weekend as they are due to play two games in less than 18 hours. Tomorrow they face Tayside Musketeers at Portobello at 7pm in the climax of another Super Saturday of City of Edinburgh club games before their derby with EU the following morning.

“It’s not ideal, especially after the holidays, but as the team is mostly made up of younger players we should get through it unscathed physically,” said coach Doug Reilly.

Kings’ North Berwick-based former junior star Ali Mackay, who has returned to Scotland after a frustrating spell in Rome, has still not received his international clearance from the Italian club and remains in limbo.

But judging by the way Kings played immediately before the break they are well capable of grabbing the points.

Boroughmuir Blaze, joint leaders with Glasgow University, were also due to have two games on successive days but their Sunday match away to Tayside Musketeers has now been called off due to the perennial problem of a shortage of referees. Blaze play Ayrshire Tornadoes at the Crags tomorrow (3.20pm) and should win to stay top.

By contrast to their men, unbeaten Edinburgh University women look certainties to win the Scottish League title for the first time as well as retaining the Scottish Cup when they play St Andrews University in the final at the Lagoon Centre at the end of the month.

They defeated champions Edinburgh Kool Kats 65-36 at the Pleasance this week to complete a double over them, though coach Bart Sengars was far from pleased with the way they played.

Tomorrow EU women are away to Falkirk Fury at the Mariner (1.50pm).