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VANCOUVER – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team built an early lead but ran into foul trouble and the gas-tank went empty, as the No. 4 nationally ranked UBC Thunderbirds came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the desperate visiting Vikes 83-66 on Friday night at the War Memorial Gymnasium.


With the loss, the Vikes fall to 8-9 and remain in third place in the Canada West’s Pacific Division. It sets up a must-win final game for UVic, when they host the same Thunderbirds (14-3, 1st Pacific Division) on Friday Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at McKinnon Gymnasium.

Rookie Cassandra Knievel was lethal from outside for the Thunderbirds, as the Nanaimo, B.C., product from Dover Bay High School led the Thunderbirds with a strong three-point shooting effort, finishing with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Fittingly on seniors night, fifth-year senior Zara Huntley led with a game-high 17 points and 15 rebounds, while sophomore and Canadian junior national team player Kristjana Young was one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 14 points, 13 boards and nine assists.

Allison Mulock of North Vancouver came off the bench to lead the Vikes with 16 points. Cassandra Goodis of Penticton, B.C., was outstanding for UVic with just four points but eight assists and two steals in a strong defensive performance. Debbie Yeboah of Winnipeg, 15 points, and Sarah Semeniuk of Fruitvale, B.C., with 13 points, were also in double-digit scoring for UVic.

The Thunderbirds closed out the game with a 21-5 run and enjoyed a 24-5 edge on second-chance points and outrebounded the Vikes 45-27. The Vikes have dropped the last seven games against UBC.

UVic led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half, but foul trouble on a short bench allowed the Thunderbirds to claw back early in the third quarter.

Jessica Renfrew of Victoria, Semeniuk and Chelsea McMullen of Prince George, B.C., got into early foul trouble, forcing inside mismatches that prevented UVic from building on their lead – despite a strong defensive effort and great second-effort play.

Despite the early foul trouble, strong play allowed UVic to build a 17-9 lead in the opening six and a half minutes. They led 24-14 after the opening quarter thanks to an 11-0 edge from bench-players.

UVic stretched the lead to 29-14 early in the second quarter, but then foul trouble cut into the momentum and forced the Vikes to settle back into a zone, unable to contest UBC’s outside shots.

It proved to be a major difference.

Leading 36-18, UBC clawed back by exploiting the zone with uncontested three-point looks including a key momentum changer from Knievel with about 2:30 remaining in the half. The Vikes still led 42-32 at the half-time break.

The Thunderbirds went on an early run in the second half thanks to a couple of key blocks from Huntley and some excellent transition scoring from her and Young.

UBC cut the lead to three and two points several times, and finally they cracked the Vikes as Knievel hit another clutch three late in the third quarter to put UBC put 54-52, their first lead since opening the scoring. Knievel hit another three to make it 57-54 before Yeboah closed out the quarter scoring, draining a great shot to make it 57-56 UVic.

In the fourth, Renfrew fouled out with 8:29 left, and UVic still leading, 61-59. It was their last lead of the contest.

Former Vike Kristen Hughes of North Vancouver drained an uncontested three to put UBC up 64-61. Then UBC made a stop and Alex Vieweg of North Vancouver drained a tough shot to spread the lead to 66-61. After a timeout, Alex Vieweg scored again in transition to make it 68-61. And then two Knievel treys put the game away.

GAME NOTES: Former Vike Vanessa Forstbauer was in the stands to cheer her team on… UVic looked solid early in the game and played very aggressive defensively to force tough looks for UBC… The Thunderbirds already have first place in the Pacific Division locked up… Next Friday’s Feb. 17 contest will be UVic’s annual Shoot For The Cure game, an awareness night and fundraiser for breast cancer held as part of the national initiative.