In a defensive battle of attrition, it was the University of Manitoba Bisons holding on to top the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, 66-63 on Friday, January 11 at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre.
The first quarter was not indicative of what was to come, as the teams traded baskets early. Manitoba’s James Wagner led the way with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, and it was the visitors who held a 25-17 lead after ten minutes.
“We just executed our plays well. The past couple weekends we haven’t, but today we really stepped things up” said Wagner. “I got a lot of open looks and I was able to knock them down.”
In the second frame, the Bisons continued to add to their lead. Malik Irwin came off the bench to shoot 2-2 from beyond the three-point line to put the Bison up 44-29 at half time.
“We weren’t able to get into a rhythm, and we got some guys in early foul trouble,” said UNBC coach Todd Jordan. “At the end of the day, we should be able to handle it better than we did. That’s no excuse for turning the ball over like we did, and making a lot of mistakes.”
Looking to improve upon their 27% first-half shooting percentage, the Timberwolves began to rally in the third. Jovan Leamy and Vova Pluzhnikov started to hit tough looks, and the home team took better care of the ball. However, when the quarter ended, the deficit was still 11, as the Bisons held a 57-46 advantage.
The Timberwolves came out firing to start the fourth quarter, and with just two minutes remaining found themselves within a sing point after a Jovan Leamy corner three-pointer. However, that would be as close as the Timberwolves would come, as the Bisons were able to hold on for a 66-63 win.
“We held them to 22 points in the second half and that’s definitely a positive we can take in to tomorrow. Unfortunately we were right there in the end, and that hurts for sure” said Jordan.
The Bisons’ James Wagner finished the night with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, leading his team to victory.
Jovan Leamy led the Timberwolves, and all scorers with 28 points, and 5 rebounds, to go along with five steals and two blocks.
With the victory, the Bisons improve to 4-9 on the season, but Wagner suggests their schedule has been difficult to this point.
“We have lost a couple close ones to really good teams. I don’t’ think our record is indicative of how good we are. We are just taking it one game at a time, and we are still fighting for a playoff spot.”
The Timberwolves will look for revenge as the two teams face off again Saturday night at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre in the second game of a double-header weekend.
“We need a little chip on our shoulder. Any team can beat any team on a given night,” said Chandler. “They hit us hard early and that definitely made things difficult down the stretch, but all we can do is bounce back tomorrow.”