Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds went to work in their second game in two nights against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, but fell 70-60 to split their home opening series at War Memorial Gym Saturday night.
"We expected Saskatchewan to come back motivated and hungry after last night," said UBC head coach Deb Huband. "Even though we expected it, I don't think we handled it very well. We didn't execute like we did last night so offensively we struggled. Credit to them, they played hard and you could tell they really wanted to will a win."
The T-Birds went to work scoring 32 points in the paint but Saskatchewan out-rebounded the UBC 53 to 28 and tallied 30 bench points in the victory.
"I was happy with the contribution from the bench for sure," said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis. "That was a big difference from last night and it's what we needed. We were lacking a little bit of extra firepower so I was glad some people stepped up. It's so early, a lot of teams are going to improve so much between now and the end of the season. UBC is a strong team and we didn't come out ready to play yesterday so it was a good chance for us to rebound and come back with a win tonight."
Saskatchewan's Libby Epoch led the Huskies with 14 points, Katriana Philipenko came off the bench for 13, and Summer Masikewich collected a game-high 13 boards.
Maddison Penn had a team-high 15 points with three rebounds and two steals for the Thunderbirds, Keylyn Filewich put up 14 points and Gabriella Laguerta went 4-for-5 from three-point range with 14 points off the bench.
Madison Legault opened the scoring for the 'Birds before Philipenko came off the bench for five quick points to put the Huskies up 9-2. Jessica Hanson and Filewich executed a clean pick-and-roll for UBC's second basket of the game, and Laguerta connected from beyond the arc to make it 17-12 Saskatchewan after the first quarter.
Epoch hit back-to-back threes to extend the Huskies lead to double digits in the second quarter as the visitors held the run of play. Penn re-entered the game to score the 'Birds' next seven points to close out the half down 36-25. UBC turned it on in transition midway through the third as Saskatchewan held a 49-39 lead, but the Huskies continued to drain buckets to go ahead 59-44 heading all the way to the win.
"We started week one playing the coaches poll No. 1 in the Canada West," explained coach Huband. "To have a spilt is a reasonable outcome. I think it's a good sign to show where we're at right now. We're a very competitive team that has a lot more depth and versatility. We're looking forward to more games as the season goes on."
Next up for the 'Birds is a pair of Legends Cup tests in a home-and-home series with the Victoria Vikes. UBC hosts Victoria at War Memorial Gym Thursday night before a visit to the Island Saturday.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds