Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD – The defending national champion Saskatchewan Huskies were pushed to the limit by the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades in the Canada West women's basketball opener for both teams, but the Huskies pulled away in the dying minutes for a 53-44 victory.
In a relentlessly physical clash at the Envision Athletic Centre, the Cascades limited the Huskies to 26.5 per cent shooting from the field. But Saskatchewan survived thanks to their prowess on the offensive boards – they corralled 21 of their own misses, and won the rebounding battle 49-40 overall.
Sascha Lichtenwald notched a game-high 22 points for the Huskies (1-0) and was the lone Saskatchewan player to score in double figures, while Taylor Claggett, Sara Simovic and Kayli Sartori posted 10 points apiece for the Cascades (0-1).
The two teams renew hostilities on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the EAC.
"I thought it was disappointing tonight, to be honest," Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. "We had an opportunity to get a better result, and I didn't think we had everybody fully engaged in the game tonight. I think if that would have happened, we would have probably had a better result."
The host Cascades dug in defensively from the opening tip, limiting the Huskies to six points in the first quarter and holding an 11-6 lead at the end of the opening frame.
The Huskies found some traction late in the second quarter, going on a 9-2 run to take a 22-19 lead at the break.
UFV had a strong start to the third quarter and led 30-25 after an and-one layup by Claggett, but Sask ended the quarter on a 6-0 run and never trailed again. Huskies point guard Libby Epoch hit a three-pointer with 1:17 left in regulation to take the air out of the Cascades' comeback hopes – it was her only basket of the night (she shot 1-for-12 from the field), but it gave the visitors a 50-42 lead.
Shayna Litman finished with eight points and 10 boards for the Cascades, while Megan Lindquist chipped in offensively for the Huskies with nine points.
"I thought defensively for most of the night, we were pretty solid," Tuchscherer said. "We made some strides defensively in the past few weeks – we've obviously changed up our defence a little bit from years past, so we're probably going to get some teams early in games with a little bit of confusion as to what we're running. As the game went on, you could see Saskatchewan started to figure us out a little bit and got a little bit tougher on the o-boards, and that was a big difference in the game."