Vancouver, BC – The UBC women’s basketball team lost their first – and last – preseason game on Saturday afternoon to the NCAA Division II Western Washington University Vikings, 68-62 at War Memorial Gym.
Despite an inspired fourth-quarter effort, the Thunderbirds could not claw back from a 20-point third-quarter deficit.
A basket by Kris Young with just over five minutes left brought the Thunderbirds within six points, which would be the closest margin for the remainder of the game, as the Vikings held on for a 68-62 victory.
Third-year forward Kara Spotton led UBC with 20 points on 7-15 shooting.
Young, entering her fifth and final season as a Thunderbird, scored 17 points and led UBC with five assists through her 32 minutes of play.
“We had moments, but we didn’t put 40 minutes together,” said the former Canada West Player of the Year. “[Western Washington] is an aggressive team and their tough defense let them dictate the flow of the game.”
Full-court pressure by the Vikings at the beginning of the game caught the Thunderbirds on their heels, as the NCAA Division II team was able to build a lead early. With the deficit margin reaching a maximum of 20 points midway through the third-quarter, the Thunderbirds amped up the urgency in the fourth-quarter to make for a competitive game.
“It shows the influence that we can have on the game when we play good defense and pressure,” said Young of the team’s fourth-quarter surge.
All in all, the Vikings played with more physicality and efficiency throughout the entirety of the game.
“The American style of play is a lot more intense and physical,” said fifth-year forward Harleen Sidhu. “This was a good challenge for us.”
Sidhu scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the loss.
The Thunderbirds now become the second Canadian team to fall at the hands of Western Washington, as the Vikings easily defeated University of Fraser Valley earlier in preseason action. Western Washington has won consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships, and was slotted at No. 15 nationally in the NCAA Division II preseason poll.
The Thunderbirds finish the preseason with a 7-1 record, highlighted by a first place finish at Ryerson’s Darcel Wright Memorial Classic in Toronto.
Sidhu notes that the defensive aspect of the game is something the Thunderbirds have implemented strongly into their style of play.
“Defense is something that we have wanted to work on, and we’re starting to learn that it is very important,” said Sidhu. “It was a key factor in a lot of our wins this preseason, specifically against teams that we might not have gotten wins against last year.”
UBC was voted first in the Canada West and second in the nationwide CIS preseason polls. Regardless of UBC’s ranking, Sidhu iterates the importance of maintaining focus on their side of the ball.
“We have to take care of it on the court, no matter what the rankings are,” she said. “We can’t worry about where we stand in comparison to other teams, we just have to take care of our business when we step onto that court no matter who we play.”
Canada West regular season action begins next weekend, with UBC hosting the University of Victoria in a weekend series.