Last week, Spencer Ledoux scored a career-high 18 points against the UBC Thunderbirds. Then, on Friday, he made a game-winning buzzer beater to beat the UBCO Heat. Saturday night, the Kamloops product stepped up again, going 13-for-16 for a new career-high of 28 points, leading the UNBC Timberwolves to a 98-83 victory over the Heat in Kelowna, on January 22.
Early in the opening frame, the TWolves came out the hungrier team. Friday’s hero, Spencer Ledoux, got to his spot on the floor for three early buckets, while Chris Ross chipped in with a pair of tough layups. The Heat would settle in, using five Gus Goerzen points to buoy their offensive effort. After ten minutes, UNBC held a 26-14 advantage, thanks to nine points from Ledoux.
“We won a tight one the night before, so we wanted to set the tone, and play really physically,” said UNBC’s Tyrell Laing. “We played power basketball, got it to our big man, and made it tough on them to start the ballgame.”
The UNBC defensive effort continued into the second quarter, doing well to limit many of UBCO’s looks. The Heat, coming into the game with the most turnovers in the conference, continued those ball security woes in the first half of this matchup, and the TWolves were more than happy to get out in transition for some easy looks. UBCO forward Kevin Hamlet did well to use his length to get to the hoop for a pair of tough buckets, but Ledoux was up to the task of matching him at the other end.
The Heat managed to find their way to the free throw line on a number of occasions as the quarter wound down, chipping away at the deficit, much to the chagrin of UNBC coach Todd Jordan. When the buzzer sounded, UNBC clung to a narrow 43-38 lead.
Ledoux paced UNBC with 15 points in 13 minutes, while Tyrell Laing added 10 points. For UBCO, Hamlet led the way with nine points. While the TWolves held a distinct 34-14 lead in points in the paint, they failed to make a single three-pointer in the game’s first 20 minutes.
UNBC came out early in the second half looked to slow the pace, using their basketball IQ to get to the free throw line for easy points. Hamlet proved to be UBCO’s best option to find the scoresheet, making a pair of long jumpers and a three, but the veteran backcourt of Vova Pluzhnikov and Tyrell Laing steadied the ship for UNBC. Heat guards Jesse Vogel and Hafith Moallin were a thorn in the TWolves’ side with their pressure defense, and it was a 67-58 game with then minutes remaining.
“You have to credit to them. They didn’t roll over. Clay (Pottinger) had them zoning and trapping, and trying to speed us up,” said Laing. “It allowed them to get back into the game. We had enough poise to close them out, but credit to them for their scrappiness.”
Fareed Shittu made some Timberwolves history early in the fourth, when he blocked a Moallin layup, giving him sole possession of most career blocks in UNBC history, passing longtime TWolf Austin Chandler.
The teams traded baskets through much of the fourth quarter, with the Timberwolves doing well to earn trips to the free throw line. However, their proficiency from the charity stripe wasn’t ideal, leaving the door open for a late UBCO push. Ledoux continued to be the focal point for UNBC, as the third-year Kamloops product showed why he is perennially near the top of the Canada West field goal percentage leaderboard.
The Heat applied a full-court pressure, leading to back-to-back Vogel steal and scores, cutting the deficit to just six points with two minutes remaining. However, when the final buzzer sounded, UNBC had earned the weekend sweep with a 98-83 victory.
Ledoux led the way with a career-high 28 points, while Pluzhnikov filled the sheet with 16 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Tyrell Laing had 21 points and six rebounds, while Shittu had eight points, six rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.
“He is incredible. He is a huge part of our team. I call him Baby Jokic. He gets shaking and he gets buckets. He can turn over either shoulder. So efficient,” said Laing, postgame. “It helps us because it brings a different dynamic to our team. A post player that can go get us a bucket. He is unstoppable right now.”
Hamlet was the Heat’s best offensive player, scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Gus Goerzen added 14 points, while Jesse Vogel and Keaton Souster both reached double figures.
“It’s huge. We have had a tough schedule, playing UBC three times and Victoria twice,” said Laing. “It was really nice to come away with two wins against a team that is close to us in the standings right now.”