Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds (8-0) used dominant second-half defence and red-hot shooting from beyond the arc to knock off the UBC Okanagan Heat (1-9) 96-49 in their final U Sports men's basketball game before the winter break.
The 'Birds were lead by Canada West's top scorer Conor Morgan, who finished with 21 points. The Heat were paced by Aldrich Berrios who scored all of his 18 points in the first half.
UBC point guard Phil Jalalpoor opened the scoring with a triple, and the rest of the team followed suit. Taylor "Downtown" Browne was on fire from beyond the arc going 4-for-6, and completed a four-point play to extend the lead to 25-11 with 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
With 2:38 remaining in the half, the Heat capitalized on an offensive rebound from Tristan Mathews, who kicked it out to Navtej Sandhu for a three-pointer, pulling them within 10 at 43-33. But Morgan responded with a thundering dunk and his third three of the night.
Everything was falling for the home team, as Jalalpoor banked in a half-court buzzer-beater to send the Thunderbirds into halftime up 53-38.
"Oh yeah, I called bank," laughed Jalalpoor. "I told coach – make sure Conor inbounds it to me, and then I banked it in. Just like I said."
"You never know how much momentum a shot like that has," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "They scored 26 in that second quarter, all of a sudden it fired up everybody."
In the third, UBCO's Noma Obaseki tipped home a put-back two but, once again, Morgan answered back with a three as UBC continued the offensive onslaught up 67-40.
T-Birds outmanned the Heat in the paint and Morgan showed off his range – going 4-for-6 from three, and finishing with his 21 points in just 24 minutes.
At 8-0 the Thunderbirds leapfrog Calgary for second in the Canada West with two games in hand on the 10-0 Alberta.
UBC head coach Kevin Hanson was proud of his team's defensive performance – especially in the second half.
"We held them to 11 points, and a lot of our offense was generated from our defensive stops. I think it showed our depth. It was great to see the guys who log a lot of minutes throughout the year on the bench cheering, and I'm really happy with the spirit and energy the team showed tonight."
Isaiah "Zeke" Familia scored 10 points and picked up 8 boards with 3 steals as the young guns took the opportunity to shine.
"The whole thing was holding them under 60," said Familia. "It's great to go undefeated, but we're not done yet. Our main focus is the playoffs and we're just going step by step to get there."
The next regular season series for UBC will be a trip to the Prairies to take on the Saskatchewan Huskies on January 6-7.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds