Vova Pluzhnikov picked a special time to make some UNBC history, as the fourth-year guard registered the Timberwolves’ first ever Canada West triple-double in a thrilling 88-81 home opener win over the Victoria Vikes on Friday, November 1, 2019 in Prince George.
“We were playing in our house, in front of our crowd. The best crowd in Canada West,” said Pluzhnikov, post game. “We had to get that win. We owed our crowd.”
It was the TWolves who came out firing in the early going, as fourth-year guard Tyrell Laing made a pair of early three-pointers to give the home team a 10-3 lead. However the big-bodied Vikes began to wear on UNBC with second-chance opportunities, clawing back to end the quarter down 20-17.
The second quarter was a tooth and nail affair, with baskets tough to come by. Diego Maffia, playing his first Canada West game, made a pair of treys to pace the Vikes, but UNBC’s fab freshman Fareed Shittu made some noise of his own, including a thunderous alley-oop. He finished the half with eight points and seven boards, and the game tied 32-32.
The second half was a tale of two teams with different identities, trying to impose their will on each other. UNBC’s backcourt tandem of Laing and Vova Pluzhnikov had great success cutting to the hoop, while Victoria’s inside presence of Jason Scully, Hayden Lejeune, Dominick Olivieri and Matthew Ellis caused havoc under the TWolves net.
With seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Pluzhnikov and Laing took it to another gear, repeatedly making tough finishes, often drawing fouls along the way. The Ukrainian would score ten straight points late to seal it 88-81 for the Timberwolves, while making his mark in the UNBC history book; his 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists were the first UNBC triple-double since joining Canada West in 2012.
“It feels good, I won’t lie. But it is all because of my teammates,” said Pluzhnikov. “All nine guys balled out. It was awesome to see everyone coming on the floor with fire in their eyes. I am so grateful for this team.”
Laing would lead all scorers with 27 points, including a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. Fifth-year Saje Gosal would chip in 14 points and five rebounds, while Shittu would add nine points and nine rebounds in his first career game.
“Their guards came out and killed us, honestly,” said Victoria’s Scully. “They came out with more energy and more pace attacking the paint. Our bigs know they need to do a better job taking advantage of the size advantage we have.”
Victoria was led by Scully who put together a 15 point, nine rebound, six assist evening. Maffia had 17 points off the bench in his first game, while Olivieri had nine points and sixteen rebounds in the defeat.
The two teams clash again on Saturday night at the Northern Sport Centre in Prince George.
“This is Canada West, going back-to-back every weekend,” said Scully. “UNBC is likely high on the win, we are low on the loss, and we both have less than 24 hours until the next game. It’s a quick turnaround, but we have to clear the slate.”