Aneesa Heatherington / UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - Six different T-Birds scored in double digits as the UBC Thunderbirds (8-1) earned their seventh straight win in a 94-77 victory over the Mt. Royal Cougars (6-5). The 'Birds showed a bit of rust in their first action following a bye week, but turned it on in the second half and demonstrated their talent on both sides of the ball. UBC finished with 10 blocks and 22 assists to go along with a 50.7 per cent field goal percentage on Festive Friday at War Memorial Gym.
Mason Bourcier put up 12 points, 12 assists and grabbed eight rebounds, Patrick Simon tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, while Manroop Clair (20), Grant Shephard (17), Jadon Cohee (17) and Anthony McNish (13) each registered double digits in scoring.
"We didn't stick to the game plan very well in the first half," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "I think we came out a little sluggish...the week before we were fighting the flu bug, but I thought they played well and had a good three quarters. I think we play better when we're getting some penetration, kicking and playing unselfish basketball. Even at the end we weren't that structured. We played a bit more loose...guys got more intense and had some fun. It was good to see them having a little bit of fun late in the game."
Glen Yang led the Cougars with 17 points and added three assists with two steals, and John Hegwood totalled 13 points with five rebounds and a pair of steals. Mt. Royal took advantage of their early opportunities and scored 20 points off of turnovers - also picking up 21 bench points - with 11 coming from Nick Tancon, who recorded a team-best six rebounds as well.
"I thought we executed pretty well and worked pretty hard for three quarters," said Cougars head coach Marc Dobell. "But we have to do a better job of protecting the basketball and a better job in our defensive transition when we do turn it over...which I think hurt us. We got away from things in the fourth quarter but I was happy with our guys for the first three quarters, I just think we have to take better care of the ball."
Shephard found a cutting Cohee for an easy layup and finished an alley-oop from Clair for a 14-10 advantage in the first quarter. A headband-clad Clair drained a triple to go up 21-13 before the Cougars picked up steam. Matthew Guinto and Tancon hit back-to-back treys to cap off an 8-0 run for a 23-21 deficit, and the 'Birds hung on to lead 26-25 after the first.
Samuel Willis III drove to the basket for the hoop and the harm to give Mt. Royal a brief 28-26 lead early in the second quarter before Bourcier and Shephard took turns penetrating the paint to reclaim the lead at 30-28. A Simon jumper made it 34-30, and Clair went on a run of his own - scoring 13 straight T-Bird points for a 47-39 advantage. UBC closed out the first half up 49-42.
Cohee opened the third quarter with his first three and Grant Audu came up with an emphatic block, but Tancon went to work in the paint to make it 59-57 UBC. Shephard re-entered the game and made an immediate impact defensively with two big blocks and three rebounds as his Thunderbirds widened the lead to 67-58 after the third quarter.
Shephard threw down his second and third alley-oops of the game in the fourth quarter as the 'Birds blew it open offensively and locked down defensively for the win.
The rematch is slated for 7 p.m. at War Memorial Gym as both teams will be striving to close out their 2018 Canada West schedule with a win ahead of the holiday break.
"We're going to come in and have a very serious shootaround tomorrow," said Hanson. "We're giving up too many easy buckets - especially in that first half. There are certain things we've been talking about to get better at, and at some point there has to be some buy-in about what we need to do to stop teams. Everyone played tonight...everyone is getting their chances, they just need to make sure they know their jobs and they do their jobs."
PHOTO: Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds