Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - Conor Morgan's big head poster filled the big screen at War Memorial Gym on "Festive Friday" as the forward put up a double-double in the UBC Thunderbirds' 96-73 victory over the Regina Cougars. With the win, the 'Birds improved to 9-2 on the season and snapped a seven-game win streak for the Cougars – handing them just their second loss of the season.
Morgan had a team-high 36 points and 10 rebounds, with four steals and three blocks. His 36 points are the second most he's ever recorded in a game, and moved him into the top 50 in Canada West in career conference scoring with 1,317.
Phil Jalalpoor finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Audu added 14 points and five boards off the bench.
Regina's Shawn Lathan tallied 17 points in the first half before leaving with an injury, but still led the Cougars with 19 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Brian Ofori contributed 17 points, and Samuel Hillis came off the bench to put up 13.
Jalalpoor took the opening tip right to the rim to open the scoring, and Morgan followed it up with a quick jumper as the Thunderbirds jumped out to an early lead.
A Patrick Simon three gave the 'Birds a 16-13 edge in the first quarter, and Morgan threw a two-handed slam down with authority to make it 32-24 in the second. UBC extended their lead and went into the half up 44-33.
Grant Audu hit a corner three to give the T-Birds a ten-point advantage in the final minutes of the 3rd, but the Cougars continued to keep pace. With an eight-point lead heading into the fourth, UBC turned on the afterburners and closed out the victory in decisive fashion.
"It's what we preached all week," said Jalalpoor. "When we get those stops and run out those points in transition...it's about us finishing games and executing well down the stretch. Defensively we're getting better every week, step by step, and the young guys are starting to get confident. They're not rookies anymore, they're going to come down and score for us."
The T-Birds shot 50 per cent from the field, out-rebounded the Cougars 51 to 36 (including 17 offensive boards), and showcased their depth with 38 points from the bench.
"The young guys have gotten a lot of minutes," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "We're still really young and trying to get those guys to play together has taken a lot of time. It's really nice to see individual effort, but also team defense. It's still a work in progress but we're really happy with tonight."
The rematch is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. in War Memorial Gym for their final Canada West game of 2017.
Photo: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds