A 19-point advantage in the opening frame carried the UNBC Timberwolves to a 75-69 victory despite a late Vikes comeback effort, inside the CARSA Performance Gym on Jan. 19.
“This is a tough place to play and coming in here and getting a road win is a big one for us, I’m proud of my guys for sticking to it,” said UNBC head coach Todd Jordan. “They cut the lead to within one late, but my guys stayed calm, executed and showed some composure when we could have got panicky there.”
Shooting 50 per cent from the field as a team in the first quarter powered the Timberwolves to 28 points. Meanwhile, the Vikes struggled on the other end of the floor, hitting just three of their 19 shot attempts in the opening ten minutes for nine points.
“The game was won and lost in the first quarter,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. “To their credit they came out hard, picked us up defensively and we didn’t answer the bell.”
The win moves the Timberwolves to within one game of the .500 mark at 8-9, while the Vikes fall to 8-7 on the season. Both teams are now locked into a four-way tie for seventh-place in the conference.
Jovan Leamy paced UNBC with 16 points in the game. Not far behind him were Marcus MacKay with 15 points and Volodymry Pluzhnikov who added 13. It was a true team effort from the Timberwolves, with four other players adding at least six points.
Jordan Charles poured in a game-high 25 points for the Vikes, while also adding nine boards. Mason Loewen also finished just one rebound shy of the double-double, going for 15 and nine in the losing effort.
The Timberwolves didn’t commit a turnover until a minute left to go in the third quarter as the visitors did well to withstand any Vikes defensive pressure.
“It’s always a combination of things,” said Jordan of his team’s opening quarter efforts. “Number one we were amped up defensively, were able to put pressure on their guards. Number two they didn’t have a great shooting quarter so that contributed to it, but overall our guys scrapped and battled and that lead was the difference in the game.”
Trailing by 15 points after three quarters of action, the Vikes were able to make a game of it late.
Starting the final frame on an 18-4 run, the Timberwolves lead was cut to just one point after a three-pointer from Charles found nothing but net. That was as close as the Vikes would come on the night however.
“There was a lid on the rim for us in that fourth quarter for a while, but it’s a road game and they aren’t going to collapse just because we go up a bit, they battled back and competed,” said Jordan. “We could have done a few more things down the stretch to cut their run off, but at the end of the day it’s a road win.”
The Timberwolves were able to come up with some key defensive stops and hit some baskets of their own to hold on for the four-point victory.
“We competed hard to the end but some of that is fool’s gold because there’s not a lot of pressure to make shots when you are down 15, not to discount anybody who did, but it’s a different mindset when the game is close,” said Beaucamp. “Early on we missed shots, we missed plays.”
The battle for playoff positioning will continue tomorrow night, Jan. 20, when these two teams are back in action inside the CARSA Performance Gym with a scheduled tip-off of 7 p.m.