VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team begins 2015 with a weekend road series against the Lethbridge Pronghorns as conference play resumes Friday after a six-week break. The T-Birds are riding a two-game winning streak dating back to the end of November and look to erase its early season struggles.
The Thunderbirds entered the winter break coming off their best basketball of the season, earning a two-game sweep versus the Saskatchewan Huskies during the final weekend of November. The team averaged triple digits winning 101-94, and 99-75 improving their record to 3-5.
The next three weeks will be crucial in the Thunderbirds’ hopes of turning their season around, as UBC has weekend series against a pair of 1-9 teams, in addition to the Pronghorns. The Thunderbirds currently sit two spots out of the final playoff position, while Lethbridge enters the weekend in fifth, tied with Regina.
Lethbridge was arguably one of Canada West’s top teams in the season’s early going, jumping out to 5-2 record before a three-game slump had the Pronghorns record drop to 5-5. With two games in hand, the Thunderbirds can leap into the top half of the Pioneer Division with a pair of victories and some help from the division’s basement dwellers.
With momentum in their favour entering the Christmas holidays, the Thunderbirds kept sharp with a training stint in Hawaii. During that span, UBC played a non-conference game against Hawaii Pacific, a 73-64 loss, as well as a pair of scrimmages against Chaminade and the Hawaii All-Stars semi-pro team, both of which ended in victories.
For the better part of this season, Tommy Nixon has been the standout player as the fifth-year forward leads the team averaging 16.6 points per game, while his 4.9 rebounds per game is good for second on the team. Nixon also leads the team in minutes played, shooting percentage, and free throw shooting.
On the opposition front, Brandon Brine is one of five Pronghorns averaging double digits in scoring thanks to his team-leading 16.8 points per game. On the defensive side, Brent Watkins has been a rebound machine, grabbing 8.8 boards per game, including two double-doubles in his past three outings.
The Pronghorns are coming off three straight conference defeats, first at the hands of the Regina Cougars before a weekend sweep playing on the road against the Manitoba Bisons. They played five non-conference games over the holidays, going 0-5 against Cal State San Marcos, Arizona Christian, Concordia (Calif.) and Montana-Western.
The opening tipoff is at 7 p.m. PT Friday night followed by a 6 p.m. game on Saturday, both played at the 1st Choice Savings Centre in Lethbridge, Alta.