One night after the TRU WolfPack topped the UNBC Timberwolves 68-57, the TWolves showed what they’re made of, bouncing back with a 69-57 win over the Pack on Nats’ilnik Day on Saturday, November 6 in Prince George. Wearing their brand new Indigenous logo and jersey, the TWolves were cheered on by traditional drummers, and thrilled the 1000 in attendance at the Northern Sport Centre.
In the first quarter, the reigning Canada West scoring champ stepped forward. Tyrell Laing was rolling from the get-go, making all four of his shots from beyond the arc, tacking on another two points for good measure in the opening frame. His backcourt mate, Vova Pluzhnikov was riding shotgun, adding five points, as UNBC took a 23-12 lead after ten minutes.
“It was a rush of energy. I have put a lot of work into shooting the basketball,” said Laing. “I was dialed in and focused. It felt like it was paying off, and it was awesome.”
TRU pushed back in the second quarter, as good teams are known to do. Scott Clark’s team crashed the glass, looking to exploit the size advantage they enjoyed over the TWolves, led by big man Brad King who hauled in a trio of offensive boards. This led to some open looks for Asher Mayan and Brendan Sullivan, who each made a pair of threes. But UNBC held their ground, with reserve guard Darren Hunter joining the party for five quick points.
At halftime, UNBC held a 41-29 lead, thanks to 19 from Laing. Mayan and Sullivan were both in double figures for the Pack after 20 minutes.
To start the second half, the Timberwolves and Pack showed why no matchup between them ever disappoints. Points were hard to come by, but the battling in the paint and the competition for every loose ball was worth the price of admission. Payton Tirrell, each being asked to play up a position due to the roster limitations, crashed the glass for UNBC, and the freshman Hunter showed his compete level, adding six more points in just four minutes. With ten minutes to play, UNBC held a 56-52 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, the WolfPack would need their shots to start falling, but could never seem to find that shooting groove. With UNBC post Spencer Ledoux in the bench with foul trouble, Brad King would have a strong frame, scoring 10 points to go along with five boards, but it wouldn’t be enough. For the TWolves, Laing would do his thing, slashing for eight points, while Tirrell grabbed eight massive rebounds in the quarter.
“We were undersized in stature, but we have some grown men who were really battling,” said Laing, postgame. “Making it difficult on TRU, rebounding the basketball. We were getting gritty, which is what we needed.”
When the clock hit zero, UNBC had earned a 68-57 victory, bringing their record to 2-2. With the defeat, TRU falls to 2-2 on the Canada West season.
Laing led all scorers with 27 points, while Pluzhnikov added 15 and four rebounds, and Hunter chipped in with 11 points in nine minutes. Chris Ross had just three points, but he snatched 13 boards and had three steals, while Tirrell had five points to go along with 16 rebounds, including 13 in the second half.
“Our leaders stepped up. Our fifth-year guards, Tyrell, Vova, and Payton. They had fantastic games,” said Ross. “That was huge for us. They led us on the offensive end and then, as a team, we took care of it defensively. A ton of rebounding, making them make tough spots. It is fantastic to walk out with a win.”
Thompson Rivers was paced by Sullivan with 14 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, while King had a 14-point, 13-rebound double double. Mayan added 12 points and six rebounds.