By Paul Cartledge
EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Pandas had trouble responding to the stifling defence and conference-best offence of the No.3 University of Regina Cougars, the visitors earning a 74-55 decision, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
The Cougars improved to 12-1 on the season, outrebounding the Pandas 50-36 in the contest while sophomore guard Kyanna Giles led the team with a game-high 18 points. Fourth-year forward Christina McCusker recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, Giles' twin sister, Kyia, coming close with 12 points and eight boards, third-year guard Michaela Kleisinger also cracking double digits with 11 points.
Rookie guard Jenna Harpe notched a team-high 13 points for the now 6-7 Pandas, going perfect from the charity stripe on 10 attempts. Third-year guard Vanessa Wild added 11 points while team rebound leader Elle Hendershot netted 10 boards.
Coming in with a 5-1 record on the road, Regina wasted no time on offence, opening the game with a 9-2 run, quickly expanding it to 15-4 to put the home team in an early hole.
The teams traded treys after that but the Cougar defence wouldn't let up, only giving the Pandas tough shots that the home team couldn't sink, shooting at less than 18% in the first frame.
Alberta got better in the second quarter, but the play was still dominated by Regina, highlighted by Kyanna Giles pitching a long ball to Kleisinger for a quick jumper off the glass for a 27-16 lead, the two combining for virtually the same play moments after, bringing a 50% shooting percentage and a 41-24 score into the locker room at halftime.
The Cougars got into foul trouble in the third to the benefit of Harpe, the Spruce Grove, Alta. native making all half-dozen shots on two three-ball fouls within a minute of play and adding two more free throws while the Pandas went a near-perfect 11-for-12 in the quarter.
Unfortunately for the home team, Regina kept the building momentum at bay with continued tough defence, and their own charity stripe success, going 10-for-13, preventing Alberta from reducing the deficit to single digits.
Canada West's second-best defence persisted in the final frame, holding off a frustrated Pandas and scoring 15 points of their own, their lowest of any quarter in the game.
The two teams face off again tomorrow in game two of the weekend series, game time at 5 p.m. MT.