Len Catling/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER -- In a thrilling Canada West rivalry game the UBC Thunderbirds (6-0) played a dominant third quarter and a gritty fifth to eke out a 93-89 overtime win over the UVic Vikes (2-6). The game saw 12 lead changes and wasn't settled until the dying seconds of overtime.
UBC forward Conor Morgan hit for a career high 37 points, including two crucial free throws in overtime, while grabbing 11 rebounds. Point guard Phil Jalalpoor saved his best work for the late stages on the game and ended up with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Vikes were led by sharpshooting forward Grant Sitton who hit for 24 points, 4-6 from beyond the three-point line, and also grabbed nine rebounds.
It was a half-time speech from the 'Birds' veterans that turned the tables for the 'Blue and Gold'. Morgan took the floor and delivered a stern message to the team.
"We really rallied them," said Morgan. "Myself, Will (Ondrik), Phil (Jalalpoor) and Jordan (Jensen-Whyte), we really brought everyone together and said 'It's go time. We have to go now or it's not going to happen'."
The 'Birds responded as they blistered off a 27-11 third quarter, bookended by a massive Morgan dunk and a crisp last second passing play that led to a Browne corner three.
But the Vikes did not want to go away and used vice grip defence while riding an unconscious Sitton, who nailed 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. UBC's A.J. Holloway had a chance to put the game away in the final second of the fourth quarter, but his lay-up went in-and-out and regulation time ended with the teams tied at 79.
Overtime was a seesaw affair until the last thirty seconds. With the score 90-89 in favour of UBC, Vikes' guard Wayne Tucker Jr. made a strong move to the rim and was fouled by Jalalpoor. To Victoria's chagrin, Tucker Jr. could not convert either free throw. Morgan grabbed the defensive rebound and was promptly fouled. The Victoria native, who grew up mere minutes from the UVic campus, went to the other end of the floor and nailed his two shots from the charity stripe, icing the game for the 'Birds.
Despite a career high in points and a 6-0 start for UBC, Morgan was not impressed by his team's effort.
"We've got to learn from it. By no means are we happy with that win. We have to watch some video and get better for next week."
UBC will take on UBC Okanagan next week at War Memorial Gym. Tip off times are Friday, December 2 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m.
UBC Head Coach Kevin Hanson is used to convincing his players to play with pain, but it was the veteran coach who had to tough it out Sunday afternoon. Just two days removed from knee surgery, Hanson spent the game on a chair at the UBC bench and cannot walk without the use of crutches. The sixth straight win for the T-Birds should help with the recovery process.
In attendance at Sunday's game was BC High School basketball star Cam Morris. The guard/small forward combo player from St. Thomas More in Burnaby has just recently committed to the University of British Columbia and the UBC Thunderbirds men's basketball program. Before joining the 'Birds in 2017, Morris will look to lead the St.Thomas More Knights to BC Boy's Basketball Championship.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds