VANCOUVER – The No. 9 UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team ended the regular season on a high note with an 82-62 win and series sweep of the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday. With the 2014-15 season coming to a close, four Thunderbirds ended their UBC careers in winning fashion as Tommy Nixon, Tonner Jackson, Brylle Kamen, and Andrew McGuiness played in their final regular season game.
“It was a bit more emotional than I anticipated,” admitted Jackson, who played his final two CIS seasons with UBC. “Sitting in the locker room before the game, you don’t know for sure how many more of these moments you’ll have.”
With the win, the Thunderbirds clinched third place in the Canada West Pioneer Division, edging out Alberta on the tiebreaker after both squads finished with 14-6 records. With the playoff bracket set, UBC will host the 12-8 UNBC Timberwolves for a best-of-three series beginning on February 26.
On a night that honoured four seniors, it was a pair of young guns who stole the show offensively as Jordan Jensen-Whyte (19) and Conor Morgan (22) combined for 41 points. With the win, the T-Birds finished the season winning 13 of their final 14 games.
Manitoba will have to play in the Canada West Play-In Series, where they will travel to Calgary to begin their best-of-three series on February 20. The Bisons’ top scorer Saturday was Jonathan Alexander, who had with 12 points on the night.
Nixon, the only T-Bird to start every game this season, ends his Thunderbirds regular season career with remarkable numbers including winning the 2014-15 Canada West scoring title. The fifth-year, Vancouver native averaged 20.8 points per game this season and finished first in total points (416), free throws (144-for-173) and tied for first in three-point shooting (50 per cent). His 144 free throws were just six off the UBC regular season record.
McGuiness finishes his stint with the Thunderbirds with 501 career points, and averaged 9.3 points per game during his fifth and final regular season. Fortunately, the North Vancouver native was able to rebound off an injury in the latter stages of the regular season and appears healthy for the playoffs in two weeks time.
Sitting out the final stretch of the regular season, Kamen played in just half the games this season, but managed an average of 10.8 points per game and 5.2 boards per game in his fairly limited action.
Neither team shot particularly well in the opening quarter as Manitoba (6-of-13) and UBC (7-of-22) combined for just 34 points with the T-Birds holding a marginal two-point, 18-16 advantage. Stephan Walton and Alexander had six points apiece for the Bisons while Jackson had a team-high five points through 10 minutes of play.
Walton nailed a three with less than a minute to go in the first to give the Bisons their first lead of the weekend, after trailing for the entirety of last night’s two-game series opener.
Manitoba’s Justus Alleyn and UBC’s Jackson traded layups to end the first half, this time with UBC holding a one-possession edge, at 33-32. Walton had 10 points in the first half for the Bisons while Jackson had a team-leading nine points through two stanzas.
UBC nailed its first four field goals to begin the third, highlighted first by a pair of Jensen-Whyte layups before Jackson was fouled and burned the Bisons for a three-point play. The Bisons’ Alexander kept it a two-possession, 44-38 game after an emphatic block on Jackson’s attempted layup.
Canada West’s highest scoring team, and the newcomers to the CIS top 10 rankings at No. 9, would show their true colours in the second half limiting Manitoba to just 62 points on the night. In a game that was tightly contested in the opening half, the second half was reminiscent of last night where UBC had a 25-point lead at one point. UBC outscored the Bisons 20-13 in the third, and 29-17 in the fourth en route to the 82-62, 20-point victory.
Kevin Hanson also completes a record-breaking year, his 15th season at the helm of the program, becoming the all-time winnigest coach in UBC history earlier this season. After tonight’s victory, Hanson finishes the regular season improving his lifetime record to 352-143 overall, and 235-80 in conference play while with UBC.
“Kevin is one of the greatest coaches in the CIS and it’s been such a pleasure playing for him and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this program,” added Jackson. “I couldn’t have anticipated a more welcoming environment when I first transferred here.”