Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – One down, one to go.
The UBC Thunderbirds women's basketball team (1-0) turned a dominant two-way effort into a 74-61 win over the Northern BC Timberwolves (0-1) Friday afternoon, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Canada West Play-In series.
Second-year players Maddison Penn (22 points, eight rebounds, five steals) and Krysten Lindquist (13 points, career-high six steals) spearheaded the T-Birds' attack, as UBC not only shot 46.2 per cent from the field (29-of-62), but also racked up a season-high 21 steals.
"The most important thing is that we came out with good energy, good compete," said UBC head coach Deb Huband. "We executed well as a team, both offensively and defensively, and we got the first game. Now we just have to do it again."
The 'Birds used every weapon in their arsenal early on in the first quarter, as five different scorers got on the board en route to the home side opening up a 10-2 lead after five minutes.
The 'Birds did well to maintain that lead over the latter half of the frame, taking a 19-12 lead into the second quarter. A remarkable eight players hit the score sheet for the 'Birds in that first stanza, as Lindquist led the way with four points.
The Timberwolves came out with some fire in the second. Opening the frame on a 7-2 run, UNBC closed the gap to just two at just 21-19 for the 'Birds. A Madison Landry three-pointer was followed by a Preety Nijjar lay in and a Vasiliki Louka jumper.
At that point, Penn took over.
The Australian import went on a personal 7-0 run, knocking down a tough jumper, draining a pair of hard-won free throws and nailing a long triple to restore the T-Birds' nine-point advantage.
All of that took just 80 seconds, as UBC found themselves up 28-19 with just under six minutes to go in the half.
Up 30-21, Lindquist flashed her two-way ability as a steal-turned-layup, kicking five straight points from the sophomore guard.
A late 7-1 stretch for the Timberwolves, including a buzzer-beating triple from guard Stacey Graham, cut the Thunderbirds lead to 37-28 by halftime.
"I think they're a really challenging team, and they're definitely going to challenge us tomorrow," said Penn after the contest. "All the girls really gave it everything, and we weren't scared, but we knew they were going to be a challenge."
Coming out of the break, the 'Birds were unable to shake UNBC, as the Wolves kept the gap to just nine points for much of the third quarter. A Susan Thompson putback jumper and last-second layup from Andrea Strujic changed that in the frame's closing minutes, as the 'Birds held a 55-42 advantage after 30 minutes.
Penn would sink back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter, part of a nine-point frame for the sophomore, as the 'Birds rolled to the 74-61 win.
Talking of her team's defensive effort, as the 'Birds forced 28 UNBC turnovers while committing just 17 of their own, Huband noted that it was in line with the coaching staff's expectations.
"That's what we need out of them," said the coach. "Defence is the key to winning championships, we've seen that in the past, and if you execute on defence, you not only keep the other team off the board, but it becomes invaluable in generating offence."
The 'Birds will have a shot to end the Timberwolves' season and move on to the Canada West quarter-finals when the two sides clash in Game 2 of the play-in series tomorrow afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. (PT) in War Memorial Gym.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds