By Paul Cartledge
EDMONTON – Though the University of Alberta Pandas kept pace on the scoreboard in the first half, the defence for the No.3 University of Regina Cougars proved why they're among the conference's best in the second half, propelling the visitors to a playoff-clinching 65-46 victory, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Sophomore guard Emma Kary led the Pandas with 12 points while fellow sophomore guard Lauren Earl and senior forward Elle Hendershot added 11 points apiece.
Senior forward Charlotte Kot netted a game-high 15 points for the Cougars, sophomore guard Kyia Giles adding 12 points while her twin sister, Kyanna, came close to a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. Third-year guard Michaela Kleisinger recorded 11 points, including three long-balls on three attempts.
The Pandas got the early jump on Regina with an 8-0 run in the first two minutes, but the Cougars responded with a 12-0 run to claim the lead.
Alberta, with one of Canada West's highest percentage of field goals coming from beyond the arc, kept shooting from long distance but were unable to connect, allowing Regina to pull ahead 18-11 after the opening quarter.
Fortunately for the home team, their strategy turned to points inside the paint in the second quarter, putting down 58% of their shots, including a 7-0 run to tie the game halfway through the frame.
After the Cougars sank two buckets, Hendershot put up five straight points to reclaim the lead but with one minute left and Alberta up by three, the Giles twins made use of the charity stripe to tie the game at 29-29 leading into the locker room.
Coming out of halftime, Regina scored the first six points before their aggressive defence went into full shutdown mode, outrebounding Alberta 14-9 and holding the Pandas to only four points in the third quarter, giving the visitors an 11-point lead heading into the final frame.
Brimming with confidence on defence, the Cougars lit up on offence, shooting at 50% from the field while still outrebounding their hosts, now to a tune of 11-5, hindering Alberta from getting back into the game.
Down by more than 20 points, a late 9-2 run by Alberta helped get them closer to their season scoring average, but the weekend sweep puts considerable doubt into the Pandas' playoff aspirations.
The 6-8 Pandas head out on the road next weekend to play the Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary before a home-and-home series the following weekend with the MacEwan Griffins, their final conference home game of the season. The 13-1 Cougars head home to host the Brandon Bobcats.