Often, the game of basketball is won or lost in the paint.
Saturday, the Alberta Pandas held a 25-6 advantage in offensive rebounds, and outscored the UNBC Timberwolves 44-8 in the paint, leading to a convincing 71-50 victory over the banged-up TWolves on Saturday, November 25 in Edmonton.
Early in the first quarter, it was the Pandas coming out the more intentional team, working it inside and exploiting their size advantage. They made good on six shots in the paint in the opening minutes, taking a 20-0 lead against a TWolves team looking for answers. Offensively, there seemed to be a lid on the basket for the Timberwolves, who came up empty on their first nine attempts before freshman Viktoriia Filatova converted on a layup to open scoring.
The young Timberwolves would settle down at both ends, finding ways to get stops on a dangerous Alberta attack, and slowly chip away on baskets from Rebecca Landry and Amrit Manak. After ten minutes, the Pandas led 19-8.
Claire Signatovich, Alberta’s All-Star forward made her presence felt in the second frame, using her length and savvy to get to her spots for easy buckets. The Panda defense again clamped down on a UNBC team missing its two lead guards, Sarah Kuklisin and Claire Huang, and starting forward Nene Padhal.
Kiah Easton-Ihediohanma showed why she is a future star in the conference, using her unique blend of length and speed to give UNBC trouble at both ends of the court. Along with Ella Rees, the guard sliced to the hoop for open looks, as the Pandas stretched their advantage. Manak and Filatova made back-to-back threes to give the TWolves some life, but when the halftime buzzer sounded, the Pandas held a convincing 42-17 lead.
After 20 minutes, UNBC was shooting just 18.8% from the field, on 6-for-32 shooting. Alberta had the 36-19 advantage in rebounding, let by Signatovich’s 10 boards. The post added eight points, while Rees had nine to pace the Pandas. Manak was the high-scorer for UNBC with eight points, while Filatova added seven.
The 17-year-old first-year Filatova came out aggressive in the third, scoring five early points to get the Timberwolves going offensively, but a Morgan Harris triple and Signatovich layup kept UNBC at bay. After three quarters, it was U of A holding a 57-29 lead.
With the result already essentially decided, Sergey Shchepotkin’s team would look to play ten good minutes and build some good habits heading into next weekend’s games with the UBCO Heat. Rebecca Landry made a trey, followed by back-to-back triples from Manak, as the Timberwolves showed great pushback and energy at each end of the court.
The Pandas aren’t the #5 team in the nation by accident, however. They continued to win the war in the paint, even as their talented reserves played bigger minutes in the final stanza. When the game concluded, Alberta had outscored UNBC in the paint by a 44-8 margin, despite a strong fourth quarter from the TWolves that saw them win the frame 21-14. With the 71-50 victory, the Pandas improved to 4-2 on the season, while UNBC dropped to 2-4.
Manak led UNBC with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, while Filatova came off the bench and 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Signatovich was the only Panda in double figures, scoring 16 points to go along with 14 boards, as Scott Edwards spread the minutes around. All 12 players in an Alberta uniform scored points in the victory.