It took half a game for their league-leading offence to start clicking, but in the end the UBC Thunderbirds (17-1) were too much to handle for the UNBC Timberwolves (4-14) at War Memorial Gym. Despite trailing by as many as 12 in the first quarter, the T-Bird ended up running away from the T-Wolves 109-61.
Jordan Jensen-Whyte finished with 24 points and five rebounds and U Sports’ leading scorer Conor Morgan added 20 points and six boards to pace the Thunderbirds.
The Timberwolves got solid performances from guard Rhys Elliott, with 23 points, and Greek import Vaggelis Loukas, who had the unenviable task of guarding Morgan, but still chipped in 16 points and 10 rebounds.
On a night where UBC honoured their three seniors, Jensen-Whyte, Will Ondrik and Harpreet Randhawa, the T-Birds started slowly but finished on fire for their ninth straight victory.
“I’m happy with our performance. We felt a little bit of adversity, as we didn’t have our defensive focus in the first half,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. “But I’m happy with the way things turned out. Everyone got involved and our seniors were honoured, which is always great to be a part of.”
Jensen-Whyte, a five-year Thunderbird, was feeling the emotion of his last regular season home contest in a post-game interview.
“It’s been a long five years and great five years,” said Jensen-Whyte. “When I came out of the game for the last time I was just feeling the emotion. Kev (Hanson) and all the guys down the bench who have been here for me the whole time. It was a really nice moment. I want to thank everyone who came out to my last game.”
It was two of the three honoured UBC seniors that combined on the opening score. Morgan fed the opening tip-off to a streaking Jensen-Whyte who couldn’t finish a spectacular dunk attempt, but Randhawa followed up the play by grabbing the rebound and laying the ball in.
The Timberwolves looked poised to make up for a 123-75 loss the night before with a very spirited first quarter that saw them jump out to a 21-9 lead. Elliott did the bulk of the scoring for UNBC with seven points in the quarter, while point guard James Agyeman had four point of his six total points in the opening frame. UBC closed out the first quarter on a 6-0 run to make the score 21-15.
The second frame was a taste of things to come. A slicing drive by Morgan tied things up at 31, which was followed by beautiful up and under move by Jensen-Whyte to give UBC a 33-31 lead from which they never looked back.
At the halftime whistle the score was 37-33 for UBC. The second half wasn’t nearly as close. The T-Birds outscored the T-Wolves 72-28 in the third and fourth quarters. When the dust had settled 11 of UBC’s 12 players had hit the scoresheet with Ondrik (14 pts.) and Luka Zaharijevic (12 pts.) joining Morgan and Jensen-Whyte in double figures.
UBC will finish the Canada West regular season on the road at Trinity Western while UNBC will host Saskatchewan at Prince George.