Rookies and veterans shine together in 'Birds' home opener

Rookies and veterans shine together in 'Birds' home opener

Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER -- The UBC Thunderbirds steamrolled through the Manitoba Bisons in their U Sports home debut – earning their third straight win by at least 20 points.

A Maddison Penn three-ball set the tone for the T-Birds less than a minute in, as UBC cruised to an 80-47 victory over the Bisons.

With a 22-point lead heading into halftime, the Thunderbirds were in full control and dictating play on both ends of the court – holding Manitoba to just 20 points in 20 minutes and 32 percent from the field.

UBC's high-tempo offence and stingy defence proved to be too much for the Bisons to handle in the second half, and Thunderbirds head coach Deb Huband took the opportunity to showcase the talented T-Bird rookies to the home crowd.

"We expect to play them, we want to develop them – they're a big part of how this team is going to do this year. We're getting a lot of production from a lot of places, and that's a good thing. I think you can see our chemistry is building, but it's a work in progress and we expect it to get better every week."

In her first year with the 'Birds, Penn noted the benefit of having strong team chemistry. "All together we're a close bunch, so it's really good to get the rookies going."

Penn came off the bench in the fourth quarter and made her presence known, spinning off her check with ease and nailing a Tim Duncan-esque bank shot off the glass. The flashy 6-foot- guard finished with a team-high 19 points.

The 'Birds outduelled the Bisons down low, with 15 second-chance points to go along with six blocks. Veteran Kara Spotton led the way with three blocks to go along with seven rebounds and 15 points. Rookie Ali Norris added six points, two boards and a steal in 19 minutes of action.

"You could tell from the start of the game how excited the girls were. We brought great energy, the girls were focussed and working hard."

UBC will look to maintain that energy into Game 2 against Manitoba on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT at War Memorial Gym.

IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds