MBB: Shephard leads T-Birds past Cougars for eighth straight win

MBB: Shephard leads T-Birds past Cougars for eighth straight win

Aaron Martin / UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER  - An electrifying performance from Grant Shephard and the No. 4-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (9-1) men's basketball team saw them claim a 113-83 win over the Mount Royal Cougars (6-6) on Saturday Night. The win keeps UBC's eight-game win streak intact as they head into the holiday break. 

While Shephard stole the show with a 29-point, eight-rebound showing, the Thunderbirds flashed throughout the lineup, with five players hitting double-digits in scoring for the second straight contest.

"He has some great guards finding him in good spots, and he did a terrific job of finishing tonight," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson of Shephard. "He's so strong, so athletic that people sometimes seem to forget that he's just in his second year. He keeps putting it together like he has been, and he is going to be a force in this league."

Patrick Simon (18 points, seven rebounds, five assists), Manroop Clair (14 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Jadon Cohee (14 points on 6-of-10 shooting) and Brian Wallack (10 points) all hit the scoresheet in a big way, contributing to a Thunderbirds offence that spread the ball around to the tune of 25 assists and just 10 turnovers. Rookie forward Lincoln Rosebush was the only player in tonight's game to reach double digits in rebounds with a career-high of 11.

The Cougars were missing a couple key contributors due to injury in John Hegwood and Matthew Guinto but were led in scoring by fifth-year guard Glen Yang's 19 points while fourth-year forward Patrick Vandervelden added 16 points. Samuel Willis III had 15 points, while Kristian Zjak collected nine rebounds.

After a first quarter that saw them up just 26-23 at the break, UBC started to finally find their form in the second quarter. A triple from Simon and a nifty layup from Cohee on the spin move opened up a 37-25 with just under eight minutes left in the frame, marking UBC's first double-digit lead of the contest.

Shephard started to take control in a dominant mid-quarter stretch, as the big man notched six points in two minutes to put UBC up 44-31 shortly after.

While the 'Birds dominated the latter stages of the second quarter through their work in the paint, Mount Royal stayed in the contest on the deep ball. 

Up 72-50, Shephard made his presence felt again midway through the third with a phenomenal stretch. First, the sophomore finished off an alley-oop on the dish from Mason Bourcier before running the floor and getting a block on defense. 

Shepherd punctuated his spectacular night with a fast-break alley-oop shortly after, taking a ball in-flight from Clair before throwing down a thunderous dunk and putting UBC up 81-52.

While Shephard's acrobatics provided the highlight-reel moments, it was the ball movement and some sharp shooting that laid the foundation of the explosive UBC attack. The 'Birds would end up with not only 62 points from inside the paint, but 10 off the fast break and 33 from beyond the arc.

Despite the end result, a stretch in the final two minutes that saw Mount Royal post 10 points gave Hanson pause and a clear focus as the Thunderbirds plan for the final part of the season.

"Definitely some things we need to clean up defensively," said the coach. "We've talked about that pretty consistently, and it was an issue again tonight, but overall, that was a good result and something good to build off of as we head into the break."

Following the holiday break, the Cougars get back to action in the new year beginning by hosting the Calgary Dinos in a Crowchild Classic matchup on Thursday, January 3 at 8 p.m., while the 'Birds will hit the court again on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m., in an exhibition home game against the Seattle Mountaineers. The next league game for UBC will take place January 4, 2019 as they'll welcome the UBC Okanagan Heat at 8 p.m. at War Memorial Gym.

PHOTO: Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds