T-Birds drop exhibition opener to Titans

Conor Morgan

VANCOUVER – A fourth-quarter comeback by the UBC Thunderbirds fell short as the home team lost 86-78 to the visiting Detroit Titans in a non-conference men’s basketball game at War Memorial Gymnasium in Vancouver on Friday night.

Forward Conor Morgan‘s three-point bucket from the left side brought his UBC team to within five points of Detroit at 79-74 with 2:54 left in the game, causing the Titans to call a timeout. It was the culmination of a quick 9-2 run that gave life to the home side.
Coming out of the break, the visitors immediately replied to the blue and gold surge with a backbreaking three of their own. With the shot clock down to one, Matthew Grant, standing about four steps behind the arc, nailed a shot from distance to restore his team’s eight-point lead with 1:52 to go.
Patrick Onwenu then added a layup to make it a double-digit gap. The teams traded foul shots from there to finish up at 86-78.
“It’s so early in the year and it’s an interesting time to play a game but once the ball gets tossed, you’re right into it like it’s a regular season game,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. “It was pretty intense. I thought our guys competed real hard. Conditioning was obviously a factor. The compete level was there and I saw some really positive things.”
A shorthanded but spirited UBC squad scored nine straight points late in the opening quarter to take its largest lead in the game. Trailing 14-11 with about four minutes remaining in the first, guard Jordan Jensen-Whyte grabbed a defensive rebound and made a layup in transition. He was also fouled on the play and converted the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 14-14. Morgan and Jensen-Whyte then hit foul shots before guard Andrew McGuinness nailed a triple to put UBC up 20-14.
The first quarter finished with the T-Birds up 24-22.
Detroit dominated the second quarter, opening with an 18-2 run over nearly eight minutes to build what turned out to be an unassailable lead. Half of those 18 points came from Juwan Howard Jr.
UBC’s Tonner Jackson finished a layup at the beginning of the period to give the hosts a 26-25 advantage but Howard Jr. responded with a three-point bucket that sparked the game-changing run, which was capped off by a Carlton Brundidge layup with 2:44 left in second that made it 43-28.
Howard Jr. recorded 18 points to lead Detroit on the night.
UBC answered with nine straight points right away, on layups from Jensen-Whyte and David Wagner along with a triple and a pair of free throws from McGuiness. The Thunderbirds were behind by nine at the half and the deficit remained the same halfway through the third but the Titans went on a 7-0 spurt over two-and-a-half minutes to take their largest lead of the game at 68-52.
Jensen-Whyte scored 20 points for UBC while Morgan had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in his first game at home in more than a year. McGuinness and Kedar Wright both scored 13 points.
UBC shot 40 per cent from the field on Friday night, converting 24 of 60 attempts, while Detroit was at 41 per cent (34-for-83).
The Titans will travel east to play at Fraser Valley on Sunday and Trinity Western on Monday. The T-Birds’ next game is currently scheduled for Oct. 3, when they host the Seattle Mountaineers club team.

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