LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Spartans put up an impressive defensive effort against the No. 2-ranked Regina Cougars, but it wasn’t enough as the defending Canada West silver medallists held off TWU for a 57-51 win Friday at the Langley Events Centre.


With a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars went on a 7-0 run, which put the visitors in the lead for good. TWU closed to within four points inside the final minute, but Regina (4-1) held the Spartans (4-3) off for the win.


Christina McCusker led the way for the Cougars with a double-double as she put up 14 points to go with 10 rebounds. Kyanna Giles also had an impressive night, collecting 11 points and grabbing seven boards.


The Spartans Jessie Brown (Langley) had a team-high 12 points, but was held without a point throughout the second half. Natalie Carkner (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) added 10 points towards the Spartans cause and Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.) had a team-high eight rebounds.


Both teams struggled from the field, as TWU shot 31.7 per cent and Regina shot just 27.5 per cent. However, the Cougars won the battle on the glass, collecting 58 rebounds to the Spartans 40.


“We’ve had three weekends in a row where we’ve found some good options to be scoring threats,” said Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. “I think in some of those games, scoring options maybe came a little too easily. A good team can scout us and get ready for us, so the easy looks we had in the past weren’t easy today. That’s something we’re going to have to work through and be more prepared for tomorrow and understand that defensively I thought we battled in the half-court. The two major struggles for us were that we gave up too many offensive boards and we gave the ball back too often.


“I definitely think there are some things we can fix and I’m excited to see how the team responds. It was good to see us battle and to hold a top team to 23 points in the second half is definitely a good thing, but we just think need to be collectively a little bit better.”


TWU got off to a strong start in the first quarter, shooting 50 per cent and holding Regina to 21.1 per cent from the field, en route to a 14-10 lead. Brown had a team-high seven points to lead the Spartans.


In the second quarter, the Cougars found their rhythm and outscored TWU by nine points, 24-15, to take a 34-29 advantage into the break. A vast improvement saw Regina shoot 42.9 per cent from the field and with a late offensive surge, grabbed a five-point edge just before halftime. Giles led Regina at halftime with nine points. Brown added five points in the quarter for a team-leading 12 at the break.


With both teams struggling from the field – TWU shot 26.7 per cent and the Cougars shot 16.7 per cent – the sides traded points throughout, with TWU edging Regina 11-10.


Early in the fourth quarter, the Spartans closed to within one point after a Ratzlaff jumper. Shortly after, the Cougars responded a game-clinching 7-0 run.


The two teams will meet in the rematch Saturday at 6 p.m. at the LEC.


Game Notes: The last time TWU beat the Cougars was Jan. 2, 2009, when the Spartans shocked a No. 2-ranked Regina team 83-56…including preseason, Regina is now 16-1 on the season…Regina has won 11 straight games against TWU…prior to Friday’s game, the Cougars average margin of victory over the last 10 games against the Spartans was 21.4 points.