The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds used a decisive 24-7 second quarter run to pull away from the UNBC Timberwolves, holding on to top the TWolves 96-78 on Friday at the Northern Sport Centre.
In the opening quarter, the TWolves were able to stick with the athletic T-Birds, denying the visitors easy baskets, while the backcourt tandem of Vova Pluzhnikov and Tyrell Laing asserted themselves at the offensive end. After ten minutes of play, it was 22-18 in favour of UBC.
The second quarter started out much like the first, but UBC found their footing and went on a 24-7 run to close the quarter, forcing the Timberwolves into turnovers and converting those opportunities into easy buckets. Jadon Cohee, Zach Moore, and Grant Audu were all critical in the run, as the T-Birds held a 51-33 advantage at the half.
“For us, as soon as we start scoring, we start playing good defense,” said Cohee. “I wish we played good defense all game, but we made some shots and were able to get some stops. That allowed us to go on a run.”
The third quarter was tipping in the Thunderbirds advantage early on, as Grant Shephard was effective in the paint, and Cohee continued to get on the scoresheet. Fifth-year UNBC veteran Saje Gosal slowed that momentum with a fast-break layup followed by a three-pointer to chip away at the deficit, but Cohee made a pair of treys himself to respond.
In the fourth quarter, UNBC coach Todd Jordan gave some of his younger players valuable minutes against the perennially powerful Thunderbirds, and they represented themselves well. Freshman Fareed Shittu was dynamic, getting to the rim for a pair of lay-ups, while blocking or disrupting shots in the defensive paint. Fellow underclassmen like Chris Ross, Spencer Ledoux, and Dylon Matthews contributed as well.
“This is an unbelievable experience for our guys to play against a team like that, and I think they’re going to learn from those things,” said Jordan. We are a young team, and there was some really good stuff there. I thought Fareed brought some really good energy.”
When the buzzer sounded, UBC had earned a 96-78 win, improving their record to 3-2, while the Timberwolves fell to 3-2 on the Canada West season.
For the Timberwolves, Laing finished with 21 points and six rebounds, while Pluzhnikov put up 20 points while adding seven assists and five boards. Anthony Hokanson had 10 points and five assists, while Shittu had 11 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of blocks.
For UBC, the offensive came from Grant Adu and Jadon Cohee, who each dropped 20 points, with Cohee leading the outside attack hitting six triples on 12 attempts. Zack Moore had a complete game, scoring 12 points, to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.
“We are a better shooting team than we showed in preseason,” said Cohee, postgame. “A lot of guys are in the gym every day, so it was good to finally make some shots.”
Both teams were even on the boards, with UBC finishing the battle on the glass with 39 to UNBC’s 37. The difference came on turnovers, where UNBC struggled to protect the ball giving up 20 turnovers to UBC’s nine, leading to 17 points off turnovers for the TBirds. UBC also owned the inside game outscoring UNBC 46-32.
“We had moments of accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish. We’ve got to execute it at a better level, and make a few smarter decisions, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end of the floor as well,” said Jordan, postgame. “I think if we come back tomorrow and do that, we can close the gap a little bit.”
The two teams clash again on Saturday night, at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre in Prince George, B.C.
“They have two great players in Tyrell and Vova,” said Cohee. “It is a dogfight here. It’s a fun place to play and they’re a great team. We will watch the film, make some adjustments and see how it goes.”