By Paul Cartledge, Alberta Sports Information
EDMONTON – With a dynamite third quarter, the No.8 University of Alberta Pandas women’s basketball team exploded for 24 points to claim a 77-55 victory against the University of Victoria Vikes, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Fourth-year guard Maddie Rogers led the Pandas with eight points in the penultimate quarter, earning 14 points on the evening to go with seven assists. Senior guard Megan Wickstrom had a team-high 15 points while third-year forward Elle Hendershot netted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Alberta’s leading scorer, Jessilyn Fairbanks, also cracked the double-digit barrier with 12 points of her own.
Fourth-year forward Jenna Bugiardini netted 16 points in the first half for the visitors before the Panda defence shut her down entirely in the final 20 minutes, but the Hamilton, Ont. native also recorded nine boards. Sophomore guard Kristy Gallagher added 11 points in the loss.
Fairbanks had the momentum shifting the Pandas’ way early, her coast-to-coast run for a layup part of an 8-0 Alberta run to earn a 10-3 lead for the home team.
Although the Vikes struggled in the field, shooting at only 32% in the opening quarter, they managed to pull within one at 17-16 but rookie guard Megan Tywoniuk drained a trey before the quarter ended to make the score 20-16 after 10 minutes.
Bugiardini did her best to take the team on her shoulders in the second, making five of six baskets inside the key and draining all three attempts from the charity stripe, but her 13 of Victoria’s 16 points in the quarter wasn’t enough to counter the dynamic Alberta assault, netting four points off turnovers, five off second chances, and a total of 12 points inside the paint.
Coming back on the court to start the second half with a 40-32 lead, the Pandas were firing on all cylinders, shooting at a stellar 67% at all positions and out-rebounding the opposition 10-6. Rogers did the most damage with three deuces off three attempts and scoring on two of her three free throws.
The Vikes, entering the game on a four-game winning streak and third-best shooting percentage in Canada West, went cold, succeeding at a 27% clip for the third quarter and earning only one point off a free throw in the first five minutes.
While the stingy Alberta defence prevented any shots from beyond the arc for Victoria, Wickstrom drained a big three at the arc elbow for the Pandas to push the lead to 27 that, despite some pushback from the Vikes, was enough for the home team to carry the momentum into the final quarter.
A Fairbanks steal midway through the fourth quarter led to a full-fledged breakaway from center court, the Edmonton native graciously sending up a layup to extend the lead to its highest point at 29.
Though Victoria put up a late 7-0 run to try to send a message for the rematch game in less than 24 hours, Alberta head coach Scott Edwards called a timeout, refocused his squad, and held the Vikes to only a bucket at the buzzer in the final minute.
The two teams, 9-1 Alberta and 5-6 Victoria, meet again on Saturday, tip-off at 5:00 p.m. MT at Saville Community Sports Centre.