okanagan heat

December 2, 2012, KELOWNA, BC (ISN) – The UBC Okanagan men’s basketball team’s shooting woes followed the team to Manitoba as the Manitoba Bisons fended off the Heat’s comeback to earn a 79-68 victory Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg.

Yassine Ghomari, team captain and leading scorer last season for UBC Okanagan, has only played five minutes in conference play for his team. With the loss of Ghomari, the Heat have been leaning on fourth-year guard Azi Fahandeg-Sadi to carry the scoring load. Unfortunately for coach Pete Guarasci and his team, neither of these players made the trip to Manitoba. Both are out with injuries.

Without the services of the team’s preseason top scorers, UBC Okanagan would need the rest of the team to pick up the slack. In the game today against the Bisons, third-year guard Anwar Faza did just that. The 6-3 perimeter player led the Heat with 18 points on 7-15 shooting, adding eight boards in his strongest showing of the year so far.

“Anytime two of your top players/scorers go down it’s tough to fill the void. Anwar did a great job attacking the basket tonight,” commented Matt Dalton Gibson (2nd year, Coquitlam, BC) following the game. “[Anwar] and Mitch have really stepped up on offense for us in the past couple of weekends.”

Mitch Goodwin, the lead guard for the Heat, continues to shine in his first season in the blue and gold. Today, he dropped 15 points, and added five rebounds in the contest. Another first-year player, Greet Gill, managed 10 points and led the team with nine boards in his 18 minutes of floor time due to foul trouble.

“We had a problem matching their physicality in the first half, both in the half court and on the boards,” Guarasci noted, but he liked the way his team was able to turn it around. “We grinded out the third quarter and won the fourth. Although we’re disappointed in the loss the guys played very hard right till the end.”

The Bisons took an early lead on the Heat and went into the half up 16, 43-27. Manitoba was able to increase the lead to 24 by the end of the third quarter before UBC Okanagan was able to connect on any of their open looks.

“We need to spend more time shooting the ball so we can capitalize on some decent offensive execution,” adds the Heat head coach.

For the game the Heat shot 41% from the field; the 20% from three was earned from the team only hitting on five of their 25 three-point attempts. In the past two games, the Heat are 13-52 from three; for the season the Okanagan club has only connected on 24% of their bombs, 44-181.

Dalton Gibson’s thoughts on today’s game and how his teammates battled back: “We’re going through a tough time right now so it was really good to see everyone step up and do their part to battle back. We’re facing a lot of adversity and this team isn’t ready to give up, we just have to focus on sticking together and trying to put together a more complete game.”

The Bisons had a balanced offense Saturday night with 5 players reaching double digits in their winning effort. Xavier Smith led with 16 points on the night while shooting 60% from the field. Yigit Ozsayiner put up a double-double, logging 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Guarasci looks to the last game of the semester to notch another win in Canada West, and thinks if his team can play a full four quarters Sunday versus Winnipeg with the intensity and execution in which they closed out the Manitoba game, his short-handed team will have a chance.