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Cougars hold off Laing, Timberwolves 78-67

The University of Regina Cougars had an answer for just about everything the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves could throw at them, beating the visiting TWolves 78-67 on Saturday, February 1st, in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The Cougars came out the hungrier team, feeding off the energy of a raucous crowd on Seniors Night. Their defensive intensity led to a pair of early shot clock violations by the TWolves, while Matt Barnard made a pair of early treys to stretch the Regina advantage. Tyrell Laing shouldered a heavy offensive load for UNBC, who found themselves down 21-13 after one quarter.

The offensive efficiency for both teams slowed to a near stop in the second quarter, with missed looks and sluggish ball movement. Laing continued to drive the bus for the TWolves, but the Cougars seemed to respond every time UNBC would get on the board. Greishe Clerjuste made a big three pointer, while Josiah Thomas slashed to the rim and went on a personal 8-0 run. At the half, it was Regina leading 42-26.

“We were really battling this weekend, but were having a tough time coming up with what we wanted,” said UNBC’s Laing. “Regina is really versatile team at both ends of the floor. They have shot makers, and we were playing catch up the entire time.”

The third quarter looked just like the first and second for the Timberwolves. In fact, after dropping the first quarter 21-13, and the second frame 21-13, they lost the third by a 21-13 margin. Laing was the only Timberwolf able to generate any offense, while freshman Fareed Shittu did his best to make an impact on the glass at both ends. The Cougars’ ball movement gave UNBC trouble as Ben Hillis played the role of creator on a number of successful possessions. The deficit was too much to put much of a dent in for the TWolves, as they looked to their young players to get some valuable playing time. Shittu and  Saymon Loki responded well, as did guards Colburn Pearce and Dylon Matthews, as the visitors won the frame 28-15. However, the Cougars were too much at both ends of the court, topping UNBC 78-67.

“We fought really hard in that fourth quarter,” said Laing. “I loved the effort from Colburn, Dylon, Chris, all the young guys. We won that quarter on the strength of those guys, playing hard and playing fearlessly.” Laing, who leads the conference in scoring, paced UNBC with 28 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Chris Ross added 13 points and seven rebounds. Shittu had seven points to go along with 12 boards and three blocks.

Ben Hillis had the rare nine point, nine assist, eight rebound near-triple-double for Regina, while Matt Barnard had 22 points on five three-pointers made. Sam Hillis added 14 points and nine rebounds, while Josiah Thomas scored 12 points in the victory. “Everything is on the line for us going into our final home weekend,” said Laing, postgame. “It is Seniors weekend to honour our fifth years, but our playoff lives are on the line. It is going to take a big effort.”

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