VANCOUVER – For the second time in as many nights, Calgary and UBC went down to the wire, but the result on this occasion went in favour of the Thunderbirds, who won Saturday’s Canada West men’s basketball game 93-88.
Fifth-year UBC forward Tommy Nixon was lights out, scoring a game-high 32 points, including four free throws in the final 30 seconds to put the game out of reach.
After last night’s shocking last-second heroics that saw the Dinos take a one-point win, tonight’s affair did no favours for the crowd’s blood pressure, as the game once again came down to the final few possessions. Calgary had a chance to tie the game but Jhony Verone missed from three-point range, which allowed Nixon to corral the rebound, and force the Dinos to foul, which put an end to their comeback bid.
“Last night’s emotional loss was a real gut check for our guys, and one of the tougher ones I’ve ever had to deal with,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. “Our team responded tonight and it was a real show of our character so we’re thrilled about playing well defensively and, obviously, Tommy played incredible.”
Nixon’s counterpart, Jarrid Ogungbemi-Jackson, produced his second highest scoring game of the season draining 27 points. He sits second (20.5 points per game) in the Canada West in scoring, trailing only the Thunderbirds standout senior (21.8 ppg).
The win prevents the T-Birds from suffering their first back-to-back losses since November, and improves their record to 10-6, good for fifth in the Canada West Pioneer Division. UBC sits just two wins off a trio of teams tied for first in the division, including 12-5 Calgary, with four games remaining on the schedule.
Neither team shot great in the opening quarter as Calgary went 7-for-16 from the field, but missed their first five field goal attempts, versus UBC’s 6-for-14 shooting. Jordan Jensen-Whyte had the highlight of the quarter sidestepping Ogungbemi-Jackson after a half-court pass en route to the emphatic dunk.
Ogungbemi-Jackson had 11 of the Dinos 18 first quarter points after shooting 4-for-5 including 1-for-2 from beyond the arc. With that, JOJ had scored 25 points over his previous two quarters of play, after scoring 14 fourth-quarter points including the game winner last night.
The Dinos led 19-16 after the opening quarter, a lead that grew to 10 points within the first half of the second quarter, with the Dinos in the drivers seat, up 33-23. But thanks to a 12-2 run, the T-Birds managed to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining in the half. The T-Birds squeaked out a 41-40 lead by half time after forward Conor Morgan drained a buzzer-beating jump shot.
Ogungbemi-Jackson had 19 points at the half, leading all scorers through the first 20 minutes of play. Nixon had 18 points off of 6-for-9 shooting from the field, as well as going 6-for-6 from the free throw line. UBC went 15-for-31 from the field in the half, but were 0-for-6 from three-point territory.
The T-Birds offence caught fire in the third putting up 27 points, highlighted by a favourable 10-point lead at one point. Another buzzer beating trey ended the quarter, this time courtesy of Calgary’s Jasdeep Gill, which cut the UBC lead to 68-61.
The UBC lead was restored to double digits at the 7:13 mark of the final stanza; before Jensen-Whyte threw down a dunk with authority to help the T-Birds lead grew to 12, at 81-69. The Dinos went on a 12-2 run, however, to cut the lead down to a one-possession game. Lars Schlueter started the surge with a triple while Philip Bardnt scored a layup and made the ensuing foul shot to close the gap to 83-81.
Morgan had a key steal in the final minute that led to a Kedar Wright layup to take an 89-86 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Ogungbemi-Jackson nailed a pair of free throws to make it 89-88 but Nixon negated those with a pair of free throws himself. With the score 91-88 with 19.3 second remaining, Calgary wouldn’t manage another basket and fell by a four-point margin.
“Getting challenged late in these types of games really helps moving forward, especially against such a good Calgary squad who have height, size and some great shooters,” further remarked Hanson. “You don’t get to practice these late game pressures often so I’m happy with how our team bounced back.”
UBC finished the game shooting 50.0 per cent (32-for-64), a slight edge over Calgary’s 48.3 per cent efficiency (29-for-60). Nixon, in addition to his 32 points, collected 10 rebounds for the game’s only double-double. UBC’s Morgan had 19 points; good for second on the team, while Calgary’s second leading scorer was Schlueter with 14 on the night.
The Thunderbirds travel to Saskatchewan next weekend for a two-game series against the University of Regina Cougars, their final road trip of the regular season. Calgary has just three games remaining, including a single game against Alberta on Thursday.