Women’s basketball looks to return to win column against UNBC

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November 13, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The Trinity Western women’s basketball team returns to the Langley Events Centre this weekend when it hosts UNBC Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m.

Both games can be seen live at twu.canadawest.tv.

Both teams enter this weekend with 1-3 records and in a tie for fourth place in the Pacific Division.

In their lone preseason meeting, the Spartans lost 65-54 in Thompson River’s WolfPack Invitational. Last year – in UNBC’s first season at the CIS level – the Timberwolves beat TWU twice at home, winning 73-67 and 62-54.

TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (1-3)

CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 4th (tied)
Last Weekend: UBC 77-61, L; 65-50, L
Streak: 3 losses

2012-13 conference record: 7-15 (6th Pacific, missed playoffs)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

After opening its regular season with a win over visiting Calgary, the Spartans have dropped three in a row as they fell to Lethbridge on opening weekend before losing twice on the road against UBC.

With UNBC in town – a team the Spartans battled with in the standings throughout much of last season and will likely do so again this year – this weekend’s series is already a critical early-season matchup for both TWU and the Timberwolves.  

The Spartans enter this weekend tied for the fourth and what would be final playoff position in the Pacific Division. With UNBC also tied at 1-3 and coveting that same post-season spot, the stakes are as high as they come for the third week of the season.

Playing a pressure defence, the Spartans strength this year has largely been their ability to create turnovers. Through four games, TWU leads Canada West with a whopping turnover margin of +8. The Spartans have averaged 15.8 turnovers per game, which is the second fewest in the conference, while forcing their opponents into 23.8 turnovers per game, which is the third most in Canada West. Leading the Spartans in steals is Laurissa Weigl, who is tied for fourth in the conference with 3.0 per game.

Meanwhile, last year’s conference leading scorer Holly Strom has continued to put up quality offensive numbers as she comes into this weekend with 18.5 points per game (3rd in Canada West). After picking up 20 points against both Lethbridge and Calgary, the fifth-year Strom managed 18 and 16 points against a quality UBC side that has won three of its first four games. Strom also has averaged 8.8 rebounds per game (tied for 6th in CW).

Janelle Traber has been the Spartans best secondary option as she is averaging 11.0 points per game (tied for 29th in CW). Prior to this year, she had never averaged more than seven points per game.

For first-year Spartan and Prince George, B.C. product Kayla Gordon, who is averaging 16 minutes per game, this weekend will be her first chance to play in a regular season contest against her hometown university.

UNBC TIMBERWOLVES (1-3)

CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 4th (tied)
Last Weekend: TRU 73-53, W; 76-72, L
Streak: 1 loss

2012-13 conference record: 8-14 (5th Pacific, missed playoffs)

Last CW title: N/A

Last CIS title: N/A

Under the guidance of new head coach Sergey Shchepotkin, UNBC is aiming directly for a Canada West playoff berth in just their second season playing in the CIS. The trick will be battling through the bevy of teams all vying to move into the Pacific Division’s top four.

After finishing with an 8-14 record last year and in fifth place in the Pacific Division, the Timberwolves returned almost their entire core from last season’s roster as Kady Dandeneau is UNBC’s only key departure.

However, so far this year, it’s been a ho-hum start for UNBC as Shchepotkin’s side dropped both ends of a season-opening road trip, losing to Manitoba and Winnipeg, before splitting at home against Thompson Rivers. On the first night against a young WolfPack side, UNBC showed plenty of promise as they earned a 20-point win. On the second though, visiting TRU turned the tables on UNBC and escaped with a four-point win. Despite the loss, the Timberwolves actually put together a rather impressive night statistically. As a team, they shot 43.9 per cent from the field and 44.4 per cent from 3-point range.

If the Timberwolves can maintain that pace against a Spartans team whose opponents have shot 43.6 per cent from the field, UNBC could find themselves well on its way to a successful night.

Overall, the Timberwolves have shot 41.5 per cent on field goals this year, which has them fourth in the conference. On the glass, UNBC is averaging 38.0 rebounds per game while giving up 41.0 per game. The Timberwolves are third in assists with 16.0 per game.

Individually, UNBC’s Emily Kaehn leads the Timberwolves in scoring with 15.5 points per game (9th in Canada West). Mercedes VanKoughnett led UNBC in points, rebounds, steals and assists last year and is off to another fine start as the fifth-year player has 13.0 points per game this year (tied for 16th in CW), and team-highs in rebounds, with 8.8 per game (tied for 6th in CW), assists, with 5.3 per game (2nd in CW) and steals, with 2.5  per game (tied for 6th in CW).

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