The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team can clinch a playoff spot with a win this weekend and strengthen their bid to host a Canada West quarter-final series at the end of February following their two-game road trip to Kelowna, B.C., to face the struggling UBC Okanagan Heat Feb. 3-4.
UVic, ranked No. 7 in the CIS with a record of 11-3, faces a 2-12 Heat team which has struggled to score this season. Junior Yassine Ghomari has been the lone bright spot for the Heat, averaging 18 points per game.
For the Vikes, improved fourth-quarter play will be one key factor to watch in the final four games. UVic has shown an ability to jump out to comfortable halftime leads but has been outscored this season in the fourth-quarter.
UVic is currently in second place in the Canada West, trailing the first-place and No. 3 nationally ranked UBC Thunderbirds (12-2) by one game. UBC faces the red-hot, No. 8 nationally ranked Fraser Valley Cascades (10-5) twice this weekend before closing out against UVic Feb. 10 in Vancouver and Feb. 17 in Victoria. With a game in hand on the Cascades, UVic can clinch home-floor for the conference quarter-finals with two wins (should both teams be tied, UVic has the head-to-head tiebreaker with Fraser Valley this season by a 161-147 margin in the series split in early January).
Three starting guards lead the UVic scoring machine. Ryan MacKinnon of Comox, B.C., leads UVic with 20.1 points per game, second in the Canada West in scoring, while Michael Acheampong of Toronto (13.6 PPG) and Zac Andrus of Vashon Island, Wa. (12.4 PPG). Along with another guard Reese Pribilsky of Victoria, the trio shoots over 40 per cent from three-point range. UVic is also the best free-throw shooting team in the conference with a 75% success rating from the charity stripe – Andrus is 47-of-50 to lead the Canada West with a 94 per cent rating.
Two wins are important for UVic coming off a bye week and because they will face a formidable task in a home-and-home series with UBC to close the regular season.
DID YOU KNOW: MacKinnon is closing in on 1,300 career points, entering the weekend with 1,290… He also is eight three-pointers shy of hitting 200 in his career, entering the weekend with 192, sixth all-time in Canada West play (Jeff Lukomski of Regina had 308, with Casey Archibald of UBC and Danny Balderson of Lethbridge are tied for second with 239)… MacKinnon has also played in 102 games in Canada West conference regular season play, tied for 18th overall. Should he start the remaining four regular season games, he will have played in 106, good for a tie for sixth place overall in the Canada West all-time.