Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - In the battle of Top 10 men's basketball squads, the UBC Thunderbirds lived up to their No. 3 ranking in U Sports with a dominant 102-76 win over the sixth-ranked Alberta Golden Bears Saturday night in Vancouver.
With the weekend sweep, UBC now sits atop the Canada West standings with a record of 11-1 in league play. Alberta is second at 11-3.
Conor Morgan dunk and block sequence in the third quarter put the 'Birds up 48-28, before Canada West leading scorer closed out the half with his third three-pointer. At halftime the score was 57-34 in favour of UBC and the contest was all but finished before the two teams had even emerged from their respective dressing rooms at War Memorial Gym.
"As a team, when we shoot the ball well we build momentum and it's just fun to play," said Morgan. "Tonight that was a big positive."
The fourth-year kinesiology student picked up a 22 points and nine boards and added a team-high five assists. A.J. Holloway dropped 16 points, going 2-5 from three, while Jordan Jensen-Whyte tallied 10 points with six rebounds and five assists.
UBC maintained a double-digit lead for the game's final 29 minutes, with their ball movement flourishing on 23 assists in the victory.
Alberta was paced by the three-headed monster of Mamadou Gueye (24 points), Austin Waddoups (18 points) and Brody Clarke (19 points) but unfortunately for the Bears, no other player had more than four points on the night.
"Overall it was a really good weekend for us," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "Guys shared the ball – we had 23 assists on 32 field goals, so that was a pretty amazing stat. Our defence allowed us to get into transition and helped with the angles of our passing."
The T-Birds capitalized on 13 points off 13 Golden Bear turnovers and got 49 points from their bench.
Alberta's Clarke had a strong defensive showing, grabbing eight rebounds, while his sister UBC Rowing captain Rachel Vukovich watched from the stands. Clarke left it all out on the floor in the loss, fouling out on a charge with seven minutes remaining.
Next up for the 'Birds is a trip to Alberta to take on the 6-5 Mt. Royal Cougars in Calgary.
Hanson knows his team has to carry the confidence from home-court victories out on the road to stay atop the league.
Alberta hosts Fraser Valley (5-7) next weekend.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds