Stu Walters/UBC Thunerbirds
VANCOUVER - The No.5 UBC Thunderbirds relied on some clutch veteran shooting in the late going to get past the Regina Cougars 98-92 in an overtime thriller at the War Memorial Gym on Saturday night. With the weekend sweep the T-Birds improve to 10-2 on the season and extend their winning streak to eight straight games while the Cougars fall to 7-3 after a valiant road effort.
The fourth quarter was a complete roller coaster with both teams trading baskets and the Cougars managing to outscore the T-Birds 29-23. Offence was on display with Regina guards Benjamin Hillis and Alex Igual hitting back to back three pointers to take an 80-75 lead to threaten UBC's winning streak with two minutes to play. That's when Phil Jalalpoor answered back with a fast break bucket followed by his third three pointer of the game to tie it up at 80-80 and force overtime.
In extra time, the 'Birds managed to pull away with strong shooting from beyond the arc as Conor Morgan, Isaiah Familia and Jalalpoor all connected on three-pointers. Jalalpoor scored six of his team high 31 points in overtime while Morgan was dominant in all facets grabbing 20 rebounds on the evening and saving his best for last in scoring nine of his 29 overall points in added time, ensuring UBC secured the 98-92 victory.
The Birds got off to a good start on home court in jumping out to a 28-18 first quarter lead on the strength of Phil Jalalpoor and Luka Zaharijevic pouring in a team high nine points each. Cougar forwards Shawn Lathan and Brian Ofori added a matching six points each for the visitors.
The second quarter would see third-year guard Taylor Browne stand out for UBC with six points on the strength of hitting two of his three-point attempts in the frame. Meanwhile Samuel Hillis responded for Regina with seven points, five of which came from the free throw line as the Cougars went into halftime trailing 44-32.
The Visitors would come out with a renewed energy in the second half, outscoring the 'Birds 19-13 in the third quarter with Ofori leading the way, scoring 10 of his team high 25 points on the night but UBC still holding a 57-51 lead after three quarters. Shawn Lathan was second in Cougars scoring with 17 points while adding seven rebounds in the contest.
Jalalpoor said he expected the Cougars to be a tough test on the second of back to back nights
"We knew they were a good team and we kind of had a good run yesterday so we knew it was going to be tough playing the same team again and you always got to be ready for the second night."
The fifth-year guard also admitted it was nice to pick up a win before heading into an extended break.
"I really liked this game because it's a good feeling now but we know how much we have to improve throughout Christmas, we're not a super great team yet but we have the potential to be. We saw tonight if we don't put it together games are close so we have to work through December to keep improving."
Thunderbirds head coach Kevin Hanson appreciated how his team battled until the end.
"I thought Regina shot the ball very well, we got up early on them but then became a little complacent, Phil (Jalalpoor) getting into foul trouble sort of hurt us so we had to nurture that as the game went on." Hanson continued, "in the end though you need your seniors and Phil really came through as a floor general and played really poised. We had some guys come in and play some defense in the end even though giving up 92 is going to hurt you most nights but obviously I'm thrilled to be going into the break now with a chance for the bodies to heal and keep moving forward in the new year."
With the win, the Thunderbirds remain undefeated on home court with an 8-0 record this season and now begin their extended holiday break before resuming Canada West play in Lethbridge on January 12 and 13. The 'Birds will find competitive game action during the layoff by heading south for two exhibition games in Las Vegas beginning on December 20.
Photo: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds