Tough homestand for Vikes against two of Canada’s best

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Andy Watson

VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team resumes conference play on Friday and Saturday night with a pair of tough games against nationally ranked Prairie opponents.

On Friday Jan. 6, the Vikes host the No. 5 nationally ranked Saskatchewan Huskies (4-3) at 6 p.m., and then host the No. 7 nationally ranked Alberta Pandas (6-2) on Saturday Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. with both games at Ken and Kathy Shields Court at McKinnon Gymnasium. (LIVE STATS AND VIDEO AT CANADAWEST.TV)

The weekend games will be a tough test for a Vikes squad that head coach Rich Chambers said is playing with a high level of inconsistency.

“The biggest thing in our exhibition games is that our offence never flowed, we have to execute offensively,” Chambers said in reference to a 1-3 record in exhibition games against RMC, Calgary, Toronto and the Japanese U-18 team. “Our offence at times ran like it was in slow motion, we didn’t battle and compete at times. And when we needed to, we couldn’t get stops on the defensive end.”

Also of concern for Chambers and the squad was high frequency of turnovers.

“We need to look after the ball and take good shots – if we do that, we’ll be fine and we will be able to compete,” Chambers said. “We have to be able to close out games and rebound the ball, as well. We did not battle through adversity (in the late-December games). We gave away way too many freebies in transition in the Toronto and Japan games, and we know we cannot do that against good teams.”

The Huskies are led by Katie Miyazaki, the 2010-11 CIS defensive player of the year, while the Pandas feature Nicole Clarke, the leading third leading in the conference with 17.1 points per game.

“Both teams are way bigger,” Chambers said. “Saskatchewan is playing the best ball of any team in the Canada West right now, they’ve been really pleased with the play of freshman post Dalyce Emmerson who has been a nice surprise. And if they’re that good consider that Alberta beat them twice at the start of the year. We will have our hands full.”

“We are looking forward to the challenge and hopefully we’ll be prepared for the battle.”

SCOUTING THE NO. 5 HUSKIES

Conference Record: 4-3

Key Player: Katie Miyazaki has led her team in scoring in all seven conference games to date. A transfer from the Simon Fraser Clan dynasty, Miyazaki is a strong two-way player and is a threat to steal on defence. She’s averaging 16.9 points per game along with seven rebounds per game. She has 20 steals and 25 assists this season.

Projected Starting 5: Mary Hipperson, Kabree Howard, Katie Miyazaki, Trisha Carriere, Dalyce Emmerson

The Skinny: Winners of their past four conference games against Trinity Western, Fraser Valley and a pair over Lethbridge, the No. 5 CIS ranked Saskatchewan Huskies will provide a tough matchup for the Vikes. Fresh off a late-December trip to Phoenix with wins over community colleges from Glendale and South Mountain, the Huskies have only lost to nationally ranked opponents this season and boast a deep roster.

SCOUTING THE NO. 7 PANDAS

Conference Record: 6-2

Key Player: Nicole Clarke averages 17.1 points per game and has emerged as a very reliable shooter, with a 47-per-cent efficiency from the field.

Projected Starting 5: Anneka Bakker, Sally Hillier, Nicole Clarke, Caitlin Stiksma, Kelly Lyons

The Skinny: Tied for second spot in the Canada West, the Alberta Pandas will visit Victoria coming off a tough matchup with the No. 3 nationally UBC Thunderbirds. Undefeated on the road entering the weekend, the Pandas have dropped just two games this season, a pair of one-point losses to Trinity Western (66-65) and Fraser Valley (68-67) in their last weekend of conference play of 2011, Nov. 25 and 26. They just won the Concordia tournament in Montreal, fending off the Western Mustangs, Memorial SeaHawks and host Stingers, all without Clarke who was resting an ankle injury. Anneka Bakker was named a tournament all-star and Jill Verhesen was the tournament MVP.

MEDIA NOTE: UVic practices at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the weekend series

GAME NOTES: Friday night is UVic Residence Night, presented by UNIGLOBE GeoTravel. UNIGLOBE is awarding a $500 travel voucher to one lucky fan… On Saturday night, the Vikes will honour the UVic Vikes men’s soccer team, CIS national champions. The game sponsor is the Times Colonist and Hot House Pizza.

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