MBB: T-Birds top Laval to open UBC Invitational

MBB: T-Birds top Laval to open UBC Invitational

Stu Walters/UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER – Grant Shephard ensured he set the early tone for the host T-Birds as the second-year forward scored a team high 29 points in leading UBC to an 86-73 pre-season victory over the University of Laval in their first game of the UBC Invitational Friday night at War Memorial Gym.

After Laval opened the scoring off the opening tip it was Shephard who responded by displaying his versatility and ability to score in all situations by depositing nine straight points. It started with the Kelowna, B.C. native casually pulling up to hit a three-pointer followed by an emphatic dunk to make it 5-2. After a turnover Shephard then ran the floor to finish off a fast break thanks to a nice pass from Mason Bourcier. To close out the 9-0 run it was Shephard coming back with his second early dunk of the tilt and a 9-2 UBC advantage which led to Laval calling their first timeout.

The timeout would spark the visitors who suddenly heated up from long range in hitting their next three shots from beyond the arc. Laval forward Yoann Folquet would hit on both of his three point attempts while fellow forward Alain Bernard was good on his one attempt from distance en route to overtaking UBC for a 21-18 lead to close out the first quarter.

Laval would cool down considerably in the second frame shooting just 21 percent from the field while converting on just four of 19 attempts from the floor. Meanwhile the 'Birds found their groove in outscoring the visitors 20-9 in the quarter while being led by fourth-year guard and Southern Utah University transfer Jadon Cohee's six points. UBC would enjoy a 38-30 halftime lead that they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way.

The entertaining third quarter saw the teams combine for 51 points thanks to a spike in both teams shooting percentages from close and long range. Laval guard Vladimir Thomas broke out for 15 of his game high 31 points with help from his red-hot shooting from distance as he drained three of his four, three-point attempts. The T-Birds responded by shooting an impressive 67 percent from the field which included going four for eight from three-point land as Patrick Simon, Mason Bourcier, Grant Audu and Jonah Morrison each hit from beyond the arc. Shephard added another 9 points on the strength of hitting on all four of his field goal attempts and by the end of the third quarter UBC was in front 68-51.

The fourth quarter saw Shephard add another seven points to his total while Cohee poured in another five to reach 25 points on the night as the 'Birds second leading scorer. Fifth year forward Patrick Simon and second-year point guard Mason Bourcier each chipped in with seven points while Bourcier was especially critical in driving the offence with his game high 12 assists in helping UBC to a 86-73 Victory.

"I think we're going to be a very exciting team to watch from a fans point of view but from a coaching standpoint you tear apart the tactics and see a lot of things that need improvement on," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "A lot of great individual performances today I though Laval was a really good team, they shot the three really well especially in the second half, ran some good stuff. They're a little bit undersized which forced our bigs to play on the perimeter which I thought they did a really good job with so overall I'm very pleased with it for the first game of the year and we'll take a lot of positives out of it."

Hanson was especially pleased with the contributions of a couple second-year standouts.

"Shephard had a monster game and looked good for his first game of the year looking good at both ends of the floor and playing with a lot of energy," continued Hanson. "I think Jaden Cohee did a lot of good things and Mason Bourcier with 12 assists, he really was a floor general and a creator so a lot of positives from a lot of guys."

The 'Birds are back on the court on Saturday night for a meeting with the University of Windsor Lancers and a 6:00 p.m. tip off while Laval takes on the University of Northern B.C. with a 4:00 p.m. start time at War Memorial Gym.

PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds