PRINCE GEORGE - The Mount Royal Cougars knew they had a size advantage, and utilized it in a 78-64 victory over the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves in men’s basketball action on Friday night at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
Fourth-year forward Josh Ross was a catalyst for MRU, chipping in 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in the winning effort.
Cougars coach Marc Dobell said Ross’ versatility was critical to the win.
“He puts some points up for us, but obviously he is a great rebounder as well,” Dobell said. “He sees the floor very well and gets other players involved. He’s not what we would consider the best of athletes, but he finds a way to be in the right spot at the right times.”
It was a hard-fought first half, with neither the Timberwolves nor Cougars willing to give an inch on the defensive side of the ball. The Timberwolves struggled to find their shooting touch, going one-for-18 from beyond the arc in the half. The score was 31-26, with Sam Zhang leading UNBC with seven points off the bench.
The smaller of the two squads, UNBC coach Todd Jordan said his team needed to make those open looks.
“We had some really tough stretches tonight,” he said. “A really poor shooting first half. When you’re struggling like that, you need your defence to hold you in there, and it didn’t unfortunately.”
In the third quarter, the Cougars used a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 13. Timely baskets from Timberwolves guard Rhys Elliott kept UNBC in it, despite missing a week of practice with illness.
“He doesn’t have his legs under him, so we couldn’t play him extended minutes tonight like we normally would. We were trying different things tonight, so we had to play a lot of guys.”
The Timberwolves got to within four points midway through the fourth quarter, drawing the deficit to 61-57, but that is as close as they would come. The Cougars used their size in the paint to force UNBC into foul trouble, as post Brett Layton managed 20 points to go along with Ross’ 19.
“We want to go inside and get that ball to our posts,” said Dobell. “We want to get both those guys the ball close to the rim and play off of them.”
The defeat drops the UNBC record to 4-9, while the Cougars improve to 6-5. The teams reunite on Saturday at the Northern Sport Centre, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. PST.