Another game that went down to the wire for the UNBC Timberwolves.
In a battle with the Alberta Golden Bears that had 16 lead changes, it was the Bears pulling out a 70-65 win on Saturday in Edmonton.
The Timberwolves shored up some defensive issues from Friday evening, but left meat on the bone at the other end, shooting 6-for-26 from three, and a regrettable 3-for-11 from the free-throw line.
Todd Jordan’s team came out patient but intentional, looking to take advantage of their size advantage against a guard heavy Bears lineup. After coming off the bench on Friday, senior Chris Ross was inserted into the starting lineup and responded with three early jumpers to pace UNBC. Adam Paige was hot for the Golden Bears in the early going, making his first four shots, including two from beyond the arc, for ten points in the first seven minutes.
Both teams cooled offensively as the quarter progressed as the coaches sorted out defensive schemes and coverage and made life difficult for the opposition. After 10 minutes, Alberta held an 18-16 lead.
In the second quarter, the back-and-forth war of attrition continued, as both teams traded possession of the lead as well as any semblance of sustained momentum. Evgeny Baukin followed up his strong Friday with an impactful quarter, getting to the hoop for tough baskets, but Caiden Kushnir was happy to answer for Alberta.
In a near-replica of the first quarter, the offensive output slowed for both programs as the frame progressed towards halftime. A Darren Hunter triple knotted the game at 31-31; a score that would hold until the buzzer sounded.
With ten lead changes, it was no surprise to see the game deadlocked after 20 minutes. Baukin paced UNBC with nine points, while Josh Gillespie chipped in with seven points and four rebounds. Paige had a dozen points for the Bears, while Kushnir added eight points on 3-for-3 shooting in 10 minutes.
The Timberwolves defense looked locked in early in the third, holding the Bears attack while turning stops into open looks at the other end. UNBC opened up with a 9-2 run on a Justin Sunga triple and some good work inside from Chris Ross and Josh Gillespie for tough baskets in the paint.
Alberta would claw back into the game as the Timberwolves were called on a tremendous number of fouls that left the players and coaching staff bewildered. Lars Ishimwe used his tremendous speed and athleticism to get to the lane for tough layups, while his backcourt mate Isaac Simon was rewarded crucial free-throws to cut into the deficit. With one quarter to play, it was UNBC clinging to a 49-47 lead.
The teams traded three-pointers in the first minute of the fourth, also playing hot potato with hold of the lead in the Saville Centre in Edmonton. Spencer Ledoux, the ever-consistent post player for UNBC made his second triple of the game, but it was quickly answered by an Ethan Egert bucket to again knot the game.
A personal five-point run by Ishimwe vaulted the Bears to a four-point lead with less than four minutes to go, putting pressure on a TWolves team facing significant foul trouble. The teams traded baskets, with Alberta clinging to a three-point lead in the final minute. Evgeny Baukin got a good look inside, absorbing plenty of contact to his arms, but the refs ruled no foul and his short jumper hit front iron.
The Bears would hold on from there, making their necessary free throws and claiming a precarious 70-65 win over the TWolves.
Ledoux was tremendous for UNBC, leading all scorers with 22 points to go along with six rebounds. Chris Ross had 13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in his first start of the campaign, while Josh Gillespie and Evgeny Baukin scored in double figures.
For Alberta, it was Paige leading the way with 20 points and five boards, while Larsh Ishimwe had 13 points and Isaac Simon had 10.