Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER -- Take a bow UBC. War Memorial Gym was electric Friday night, as 2,027 screaming Thunderbird fans saw a performance that defined T-Bird star Conor Morgan's season thus far.
U Sports' leading scorer led an offensive onslaught against the UNBC Timberwolves at UBC's annual Courtside game, notching 36 points and 13 rebounds in just three quarters of work, as his No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds men's basketball team (16-1) dismantled the Timberwolves (4-13) 123-75 at War Memorial Gym.
Alongside Morgan, sophomore guard Taylor Browne poured in a career-high 20 points including five three balls, while Jordan Jensen-Whyte posted a line of 18 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Luka Zaharijevic was a force in the latter stages of the contest, bullying his way to a 15-point performance on 7-of-7 shooting from inside.
UNBC was paced by point guard James Agyeman, who urged his team to play hard until the final whistle, despite spending the latter part of the game in a 40-point deficit. Agyeman finished with 14 points, five assists and four steals, while his backcourt mate Marcus Mackay finished with 11 points after going 3 of 6 from behind the three-point line.
"That's one thing we're really focusing on right now is playing the same way every game," said Morgan. "Although we're not playing the top ranked teams in Canada, UNBC is still a good team and better than their record reflects. They lost some tough games this year."
As a team, the 'Birds shot a remarkable 48-of-72 (66.7 per cent) from the field, including 15-of-33 from deep – both the 48 total made field goals and the 15 threes are season highs for the 'Birds. Six Thunderbirds knocked down at least one triple on the evening, as the team came just two points shy of the program record of 127 points set last week against the Brandon Bobcats.
"We just fed off the great crowd," said Browne. "We were having such a good time going into this game, in the pre-game, all day we were feeling really good. Once we hit the first one, it felt like we could hit every single one."
The 'Birds got the onslaught started from the opening tip, as the 'Birds dialed up five deep balls in the first quarter to take a commanding 30-13 lead into the break. Aside from Morgan's work, one of the (many) highlights in the opening frame was a personal 10-0 run from Jensen-Whyte, as the senior guard knocked down a three before finishing on the fast break three times in a row.
Morgan picked up nine of the T-Birds' first 12 points in the second quarter on some athletic finishes and a signature dunk, and as Browne hit a pair of triples within 40 seconds of each other, the 'Birds continued to stretch the lead, eventually making it 56-36 at halftime.
After Morgan posted 23 points in the first half, the senior took it to another level in the late stages of the third quarter. After back-to-back threes from Browne and rookie Isaiah Familia put the 'Birds up 82-50, Morgan dropped a deep jumper, an emphatic slam, and another three on a solo 9-2 run to stretch UBC's lead to 89-52 going into the final frame.
With a large lead and the starters mostly glued to the pine, Zaharijevic took control of the fourth quarter. The senior big man dominated in the paint, showing off some deft footwork to the tune of 14 fourth-quarter points. Combined with some impressive shooting from all over the court, UBC continued to work hard until the final buzzer, putting up 36 in the fourth and rolling to the one-sided win.
The 'Birds and Wolves will clash once more Saturday night in War Memorial Gym. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. (PT).
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds