VANCOUVER – In a heated men’s basketball battle between two bitter foes, the Manitoba Bisons (playoffs: 3-0) outshot and outlasted the #2 UBC Thunderbirds (0-1) 79-75 to take 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three Canada West Quarter-final on Thursday, February 23.
AJ Basi was unconscious from behind the arc for the Bisons, nailing four of five three-pointers to finish with 22 points. Manitoba forward Keith Omoerah was a force inside, finishing with a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Two seniors lead the way for UBC, as Jordan Jensen-Whyte ended the night with 22 points, while Will Ondrik hit for 16. The Bisons held Canada West scoring leader Conor Morgan to just 12 points and only three in the first half.
By the end of the game, free throws were the most prominent part of the stat line. UBC went 13-25 from the charity stripe, while Manitoba connected on 22-30.
The first half was a defensive slugfest with neither team able to make a notable scoring run. Manitoba had game planned for Morgan well, as he faced a constant barrage of physical double-teams.
At the halftime whistle, Manitoba lead UBC 35-31 and the ‘Birds were shooting a paltry 37.5%.
The third quarter was played at a frantic pace, with eight lead changes in total.
The quarter ended with Jensen-Whyte and Basi trading three pointers in dramatic fashion. The horn sounded with Manitoba leading 54-53.
The fourth quarter saw Manitoba open up a ten-point lead, capped by a contested three-point shot from Bison guard Ilarion Bonhomme, his only three-point shot of the game.
But after a UBC time-out, Jensen-Whyte and Ondrik put their T-Bird teammates on their backs. Jensen-Whyte nailed a three and hit a free throw. Ondrik hit back-to-back lay-ups before a spinning jump shot in traffic by Jensen-Whyte had brought UBC all the way back to a 70-70 tie.
A long three-pointer by Basi put Manitoba back ahead 73-70. UBC had one last shot to tie things up with Manitoba holding a 78-75 lead, Morgan flashed open on the left edge of three-point line and let fly. The ball sailed long and the air was officially let out of the crowd at War Memorial Gym.
The loss ended the nation’s number two-ranked UBC’s 11 game winning streak and extended Manitoba’s win streak to five. The teams will play game two of their best-of-three Canada West quarterfinal on Friday, Feb. 24 night at 9 p.m. CT inside UBC’s War Memorial Gym.