Vancouver, BC – The UBC men’s basketball team begins their quest for its 11th Canada West Championship on Thursday in a best-of-three series against the Universiy of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves. Ranked No. 9 nationally, UBC earned a first round bye after earning the Pioneer Division’s third seed and the right to host the Explorer Division’s second seed in UNBC at War Memorial Gym this weekend.
Game 1 – Thursday, Feb. 26 (7 p.m.)
Game 2 – Friday, Feb. 27 (8 p.m.)
Game 3 (if necessary) – Saturday, Feb. 28 (7 p.m.)
The Thunderbirds finished the regular season with a 14-6 record, and were the Canada West leaders in points per game, field goal shooting and free throws, dominating on the offense end all season.
In just their third season, the UNBC Timberwolves will be making their Canada West playoff debuts after finishing the regular season with a 12-8 record, a vast improvement over their first two seasons in the league (11-33).
In contrast, UBC sports a rich history having won 10 Canada West Championships, including four titles since the 2007 season. UBC has never lost to UNBC but with just a 4-0-lifetime record, the sample size is limited. The T-Birds will look to right the ship after falling to the Alberta Golden Bears in the quarterfinals of last season’s Canada West playoffs.
Both teams took similar paths to secure their playoff spots as UNBC and UBC each started the season with 1-5 records, before finishing the season with winning records. UNBC ended the season winning seven of their final eight games, including a win over top seed Fraser Valley, while UBC finished the season on a 13-1 tear.
Because of their seeds, UNBC and UBC were able to bypass the opening round of the Canada West playoffs, which involved a play-in to determine which teams would be featured in the quarterfinal matchups.
Leading the way in nearly all aspects is Tommy Nixon, who finished the Canada West regular season with the scoring title, draining 20.8 points per game, as well as being the co-leader in three-point percentage (50%). Nixon also ranks in the top-10 in rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, and free throws.
UBC’s surrounding cast has been equally as impressive this season thanks to career seasons from Conor Morgan, Tonner Jackson, Kedar Wright, and Jordan Jensen-Whyte. All four of the aforementioned have averaged north of 11 points per game this season including flashes of brilliance from Morgan, who averaged 21.3 points over his final three regular season games. Meanwhile, Jackson will be making his playoff debut for UBC after sitting out last season’s postseason series against Alberta.
The Timberwolves counter with Franco Kouagnia, Rhys Elliott and Devin McMurtry, all of who averaged over 10 points per game this season, with Kouagnia’s 16.4 ppg average leading the way. McMurtry mingled with the best in the conference this season, finishing in the top five in field goal percentage (55.0), as well as rebounds per game (10.5).
The winner of this series will advance to the Canada West Final Four with teams ultimately vying for a trip to the CIS Men’s Basketball Final 8 hosted by Ryerson University in early March.