Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – With the game on the line, your best players need to be your best players.
On Friday night, the No. 3-ranked UBC Thunderbirds men's basketball team (10-1) got that and more out of their senior duo of Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Conor Morgan, who netted a combined 49 points in an electric 78-68 win over the No. 6-ranked Alberta Golden Bears (11-2).
Brody Clarke and Austin Waddoups scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, for the visitors. Lyndon Annetts was the other Golden Bear in double digits, with 10 points. Guard Geoff Pippus had a team-high six rebounds.
The clash between the two top-10 programs certainly lived up to its billing, as the two sides traded shots all night, and entered the final frame with just two points between them, as the Golden Bears led 53-51.
"This was just two really good teams going head-to-head today," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "I think they are a really good basketball team, very well coached. There was a lot of size, a lot of athleticism on the court tonight, and it was really entertaining basketball from a technical standpoint."
It was also entertaining from a dramatic standpoint for the home side, as Jensen-Whyte completely took over in the fourth quarter. The fifth-year combo guard slashed his way through the Alberta defence on several occasions, netting 13 of his game-high 25 points in the final 10 minutes, including a pair of hyper-athletic driving layups that drew and-one calls.
Morgan, who returned valiantly from an early injury in the final quarter, posted six of his 24 points in the game's dying minutes, including a dagger triple with just 1:14 remaining, virtually locking up the win for the hosts.
"They've been around here longer than anybody else," said Hanson of his two stars. "You need those guys to step up and play well against tough opponents, and those two absolutely did that. Jordan, especially, was outstanding. He completely dominated that fourth quarter – it was one of his best performances for us in his five years here."
The first half saw the 'Birds forced outside with Alberta defending the paint well. Morgan took full advantage, picking up 15 points. Likewise on the other side, sharpshooter Pippus (nine points) and Waddoups (seven) led the Golden Bears, as the visitors' two leading scorers coming in, Clarke and Mamadou Gueye, were held to a total of five points in the first half.
The 'Birds held a slight advantage at the break, up 35-34.
Neither team could really create any separation in the third stanza, with two different five-point UBC leads, the last being at 43-38, the furthest either side got from the other. Alberta closed the frame on a strong 5-2 run to take the lead.
Then Jensen-Whyte decided to take over, and the rest is history.
UBC and Alberta are set to deliver another high-flying performance tomorrow, January 14, as the two sides will clash at 7 p.m. in War Memorial Gym.
IMAGE CREDIT: Bob Frid