Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds lead wire-to-wire for the second straight night in a 71-55 win over the Manitoba Bisons to improve to 4-0 in U Sports play.
Taylor Randall scored 16 points to lead Bisons, while Rebecca Potter had 13. Nicole Konieczny and Cara Neufeld had the team lead in rebounds with eight each.
The T-Birds dominated defensively, holding Manitoba to just 15 per cent from the field and eight points in the first quarter. Despite extending their unbeaten streak to four straight games, Thunderbird head coach Deb Huband knows her team is capable of more.
"I think tonight our energy wasn't sustained – Manitoba made a push, but we were able to respond so I think it is something we can build on."
Down 35-24 at half, Manitoba came out flying in the third. The Bisons narrowed the UBC lead to seven thanks to layups from Potter and Emma Thompson, before Hanson responded with a three and Kara Spotton made a layup to make it a 12-point game.
In the fourth, a Spotton stuff sent Maddison Penn off to the races. The Aussie went on to score nine of her 14 points in the final 10 minutes of play and was a board away from the double-double.
Guard Jessica Hanson scored seven of her 10 points in the opening frame and, with 21 bench points, the T-Birds showcased their young lineup throughout. Rookies Sammy Baumgartner, Ali Norris and Keylyn Filewich each played over 10 minutes in the victory.
Huband noted the improvement her youthful team has shown since training camp.
"The last time we played at home was mid-October. I think there's been a lot of positive change since then, and it feels great to get twelve players on the court and have them contributing."
In her fifth year of eligibility, Spotton was also pleased with the fresh faces in the lineup.
"I think they're handling it well, you can see that they're getting better each game. The more minutes they can get, they more they can work on the plays and just improve overall."
Spotton shot a clinical 60 per cent from the field, and finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Before hosting UVic for the Thunderstruck event on Saturday, UBC will travel to the island to face the Vikes.
The home-and-home series will be a measuring stick for the undefeated T-Birds, and Huband says there will be a lot on the line.
"Victoria is one of our longest standing rivals, they've had a pretty solid start so I think that matchup will tell us a lot about where we are now. It's an interesting format, and with the festival on Saturday we're really looking forward to being the showcase event."
Manitoba (1-5) will host the Alberta Pandas next weekend.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds