Winnipeg, MB – The Winnipeg Wesmen reversed its historical trend against the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday night with a 90-81 win in Canada West men’s basketball action. The Wesmen carved out a 23-point advantage at one point, before the Thunderbirds cut that lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling to 1-4 on the season.
Winnipeg’s Jelane Pryce had his third straight double-double thanks to a game-high 25-point, 10-rebound performance this evening. The home team lead by 10 at half-time and jumped out to a 23-point lead in the third quarter and avoided a valiant comeback by the T-Birds midway through the fourth, to improve to 4-3 on the season.
“For whatever reason we have struggled on Friday nights,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. “We can’t continue to allow the best players on the opposing teams to put the numbers up that they are. Tonight we did not defend well individually or as a team. At the offensive end we continue to make bad decisions. It comes down to working hard and working smart.”
UBC, now with just one win through five games, has some real work to do to get back in the hunt in the Canada West Pioneers Division, sitting in the bottom third. Prior to tonight’s game, the Wesmen had not won a regular season game against the Thunderbirds since February 12, 2005, a span of more than 10 games.
To their credit, the Thunderbirds made the game interesting in the fourth after the Wesmen failed to make a stop on five consecutive plays, but UBC would come no closer than the seven-point deficit. The Thunderbirds were turnover ridden the entire game, committing 18 on the night. Tommy Nixon, though listed as a forward, played at PG most of the night, finishing with 21 points and six boards while Kedar Wright and Brylle Kamen had 14 points each.
No doubt the Thunderbirds carried the momentum from last weekend’s 89-84 win on Saturday into tonight, as the visitors came out of the gate red hot.
The first half Winnipeg took a number of multi-possession leads only to have the Thunderbirds claw its way back into the game. The T-Birds jumped out to an early 8-3 lead, and dominated the play in the early going thanks to some good transition play, and up-tempo possessions. The size and power of the Thunderbirds was evident in the early going with almost every player standing at over 6’5 proving to be a mismatch for Winnipeg.
The Wesmen responded well, however, and ultimately took the lead at the end of the first quarter by a 22-19 margin. Wright nailed a three-pointed with only seconds left to tie it but Jordan Clennon had a ridiculous 52-footer from his own half throwing up a last second prayer to give the Wesmen a three-point clearance.
UBC went ice cold to start the second, trailing 31-19 to the Wesmen, but Nixon had a pair of baskets including a layup and one, to cut the lead to three, at 31-28. The Thunderbirds would commit their second goaltending call of the half, allowing the Wesmen to increase its lead to 10 by halftime, at 49-39, as Winnipeg’s Travis Krahn provided some strong secondary scoring.
The Wesmen continued to display its home court advantage, going on an 15-2 run to open the third, extending its lead to a game-high 23 points. Whereas in the first half, the fast tempo was to the Thunderbirds advantage, it was their kryptonite in the second, as the T-Birds committed numerous turnovers and poorly timed shots. The visitors were really struggling to take advantage of the shot clock, as the third quarter was one to forget for UBC.
The Thunderbirds got out of their funk after calling a timeout, helping them incrementally cut into the Wesmen lead. A pair of bonus free throws made by UBC cut the lead down to 16, as the third quarter expired, with Winnipeg leading 68-52.
Suddenly, the lead was down to nine with plenty of ball remaining in the fourth and the Thunderbirds dominated for a stretch of nearly five minutes. Fast forward to under a minute to play; the Thunderbirds cut the lead to seven, making it a three-possession game. The T-Birds would begin a string of fouls to gain possession, but costly turnovers continued to be their downfall, giving Winnipeg the win.
Though UBC was edged on the scoreboard, the Thunderbirds managed to outshoot Winnipeg with 53.3% from the field versus the Wesmen’s 52.3%. Winnipeg had the edge in three-point shooting (9-for-20) but really took advantage of the UBC turnovers, as the Wesmen finished with 12 steals as a team.
The two teams will close out the weekend series tomorrow at 5 p.m. PST, in Winnipeg’s final game before the Christmas Break.