BY RICH ABNEY
The University of Victoria Vikes had a size advantage on the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, and they took advantage, topping the TWolves 83-60 on Saturday, November 2nd in Prince George, B.C.
Coming off a loss to the Timberwolves one night prior, the Vikes came out early with significant defensive intensity. They were physical with UNBC’s duo of Vova Pluzhnikov and Tyrell Laing, who combined for 52 points on Friday, not allowing the quicksilver guards to get into the paint. At the other end, the Vikes made five three-pointers, and led 23-14 after ten minutes.
“Their one and two guards are great players, and they make tough shots,” said Victoria’s Dominick Oliveri. “We made some adjustments how we were guarding the ball screen, to force them to have to take tough shots.”
The Timberwolves adjusted in the second quarter, and were able to find more of a rhythm, despite the likes of Dominick Oliveri and Hayden Lejeune patrolling the paint. Laing was particularly effective, drawing contact, and finishing the half with 12 points. Victoria’s scoring was more spread out, with Jason Scully and deadeye shooter Jason Kellum each pitching in with eight points, as the Vikes led 39-33 at half.
“They came out with energy, and they were really hungry,” said Laing. “They made some tactical adjustments to slow up the guard penetration, and they had success in that. Those were the keys.”
In the second half, UNBC’s youth and lack of size starting to wear on them, as Oliveri continued where he left off on Friday, when he grabbed 16 boards. Offensively, the TWolves found the most success through second-year big man Spencer Ledoux who scored ten points on a variety of pretty post moves. However, every time UNBC got within striking distance, the Vikes would go on a mini-run to reestablish their advantage, and stretched their lead to 15 with a quarter to go.
In the fourth quarter, UNBC coach Todd Jordan went to his reserves, giving first and second year players like Fareed Shittu, Colburn Pearce, and Chris Ross significant minutes against a veteran squad. The Vikes were ultra effective scoring in the post, as Matthew Ellis and Justin McChesney did damage in the final stanza.
“In the second half, we knew they’d be getting tired, and we knew we had the size advantage,” said Oliveri. “Our coach kept telling us to pound the ball inside, take our time, and finish. We knew we had to take it to them.”
Scully was the high scorer for the Vikes, pouring in 18 points to go along with seven rebounds. Oliveri had 11 points and 11 boards for the double-double, while Kellum, Lejeune, and Ellis all reached double figures.
For UNBC, Laing paced the Timberwolves with 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Pluzhnikov and Ledoux reached double digits in scoring. Shittu grabbed nine rebounds in his second career Canada West game.
“We can grow from this weekend. This was a learning weekend,” said Laing, postgame. “We had a result we wanted last night, and tonight we had some young guys play big minutes. We had to adjust. We didn’t come out with enough energy, so we need to learn from that.”
The TWolves now hit the road and visit the Trinity Western Spartans in Langley. Meanwhile, the Vikes have a bye this weekend, before their home opening series against the Alberta Golden Bears.
“We would have liked to go 2-0,” said Oliveri, postgame. “That said, we are happy with how we played tonight, and we are looking to build on that.”