Story by Cameron Doherty, Vikes Communications
Photos by Christian J. Stewart, ISN
VICTORIA – For three quarters the UVic Vikes men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the nation but couldn’t quite find the finish they needed in a 82-69 loss to the undefeated UBC T-Birds in the Vikes annual “Shoot for the Cure” game Friday evening at the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria.
The win kept the Thunderbirds (5-0) undefeated in Canada West play while the loss drops the Vikes to 2-5 on the season.
“We had a little bit of a burp in the third where they got out ahead of us, but I thought there was lots of good stuff to build on,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. “They are the no. 2 team in the country, so we don’t want to become bridesmaids, but I thought there were some things to build on.”
A large crowd was on hand to watch the game and take part in the tenth-annual Shoot for the Cure, where over $2,230 was raised to benefit cancer research.
“It was nice to play in front of a big crowd, there was a good atmosphere,” said Thunderbirds head coach Kevin Hanson. “UVic has always been a rival so I look forward to these games.”
Wayne Tucker Jr. was the top scorer for the Vikes with 21 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field. Grant Sitton recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Jake Newman chipped in with 12 points.
Conor Morgan was a powerhouse offensively for UBC, the fourth-year forward from Victoria scored 23 points in front of his hometown crowd. Jordan Jensen-Whyte also hit the double-decade mark with 20, while Will Ondrik and Phil Jalalpoor added 12 and 10 points respectively.
“Connor’s had a great season so far,” said Hanson. “He’s really come out of his shell and is doing good things for us offensively, once he puts a complete game together he’s a pretty tough match up for anybody. His confidence is high now so we are really looking forward to him having a good year for us.”
Big shots from Tucker Jr. and Sitton right out of the gates showed that the Vikes were going to throw everything they had at UBC and it took some time for the T-Birds to get their high-powered offence in gear.
The teams were separated by just six points at the half, and the fans packed into the CARSA Performance Gym were buzzing, sensing a potential upset.
In the third quarter the T-Birds offence really started clicking. The team started driving into the teeth of the Vikes zone defence and then dishing the ball out for open shots, scoring 27 points in the quarter.
“Anytime you get a road win in this league it’s a good thing to have happen,” said Hanson. “Once we started handling their zone better we got some better shot opportunities.”
A 63-50 UBC lead after three quarters was put in jeopardy throughout the fourth and final quarter when the Vikes found another gear and put together some scoring runs of their own.
“We had pretty good resolve and kept battling,” said Beaucamp. “We just have to pick ourselves up, get ready to go back against them on Sunday and just keep building.
“Right now it’s about continuing to try and be a better basketball team.”
The veteran UBC line-up refused to be rattled by either the loud crowd or the pressure the Vikes applied to them though, and answered every Vikes run with one of their own.
“They made some tough shots, ran some good stuff and some of their guys stepped up,” said Hanson. “It was nice for us to be able to counter when we needed to for sure.”
The two teams will be back in action for a game on Sunday in Vancouver that gets underway at 2:00 p.m. The game can be watched live on canadawest.tv
UVIC: 13-17-20-19: 69
UBC: 15-21-27-19: 82