Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER -- UBC President Dr. Santa Ono was on hand to cheer the Thunderbirds to a clinical 87-53 victory over the Brandon Bobcats Saturday evening at War Memorial Gym. On a weekend that saw the school's scoring record in a regulation game shattered, the president was delighted to share his admiration for the student-athletes.
"It was incredible last night, but what's really impressive is that they go to school as well. The University of British Columbia is a relatively challenging place, so I have tremendous respect for them. They represent us so well."
With playoffs on the horizon, Dr. Ono has high hopes for the talented, nationally number two-ranked Thunderbird squad.
"The sky's the limit, and I'm going to be with them every step of the way. Everyone should come out and support them too."
As the UBC President encouraged the T-Birds off the court, there was plenty of support for the 'Birds on court. Of the 10 Thunderbirds who checked into the game, nine contributed on the scoreboard and nine recorded assists, while UBC forced 26 turnovers.
Conor Morgan earned yet another double-double with 21 points and a monstrous 20 rebounds with three steals. He also had two blocks to reach 97 in Canada West play in his career, the most of any UBC player since the statistic was first tracked by the conference in 1996. Jordan Jensen-Whyte picked up 16 points with five boards and four helpers, and Will Ondrik cashed in 14 points.
Despite shooting 36 per cent as a team from the field, Brandon's Earl Thomas Jr. put up a team-high 11 points with four rebounds, while Tyvon Cooper had 10 points and six boards. Pookie Saunders also had a team-best six rebounds.
UBC attacked the rim in the first quarter and jumped out to a 21-6 lead on a pair of Luka Zaharijevic free throws to cap off an 11-2 run. Just when the game looked like it was getting out of hand for the second straight night, the Bobcats chipped away and were down 26-17 after the first frame.
The pace in the second quarter slowed down considerably. Thompson Jr. hit a contested floater for the and-one to cut the deficit to 36-28 'Birds, but Morgan threw down an authoritative alley oop from Simon as UBC took a 40-30 advantage into halftime.
Brandon's offence was stymied in third – scoring just two points in over five minutes of play – as the Thunderbirds continued to execute on their end of the floor, leading 58-42 after 30 minutes.
UBC's offence was clicking in the fourth quarter as the 'Birds ran the floor and took advantage of a stagnant Bobcat defence to solidify the victory.
Zaharijevic knows his team has to be sharp as the regular season draws to a close.
"We're not taking any team for granted. Our mindset and approach is to improve every game, not only offensively…but especially defensively. We only have two more weekends left until playoffs start, so now is the time for us to peak…to have that cohesion. We showed last night that offensively we can score with anyone – tonight we didn't have a great offensive performance but we still held them under 60 and that's our goal every night."
The 'Birds will look to continue their high level of defensive intensity into their final home series against UNBC next weekend.
Brandon will host provincial rivals Manitoba next weekend to close out its 2016-17 Canada West regular season slate.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds