VANCOUVER – With a spirited crowd on hand at Courtside at War Memorial Gym, the UBC Thunderbirds women's basketball team (13-4) didn't disappoint on Friday night, as the defence dominated en route to a 75-59 win over the UNBC Timberwolves (6-11).
The T-Birds defence was both opportunistic and relentless, not only totaling 19 steals (tied for a season-high with an effort against Thompson Rivers in a 58-38 win last November), but they also forced the Timberwolves into an 0-of-4 shooting night from beyond the arc, both season-low marks for the Thunderbirds.
On the offensive side of the ball, UBC got contributions from all over – Maddison Penn led the way with her customary 19 points, while Kara Spotton chipped in with 16 points and a team-high six steals. Shilpa Khanna notched 13 on 5-of-10 shooting, while Keylyn Filewich also reached double digits with 10 points.
Vasiliki Louka led UNBC with 15 points and 13 rebounds, both team highs, and Maria Mongomo scored 14 points.
A dominant third quarter proved the difference in the contest, which UBC head coach Deb Huband credited to both increased understanding of their opponent and improved execution.
"I think we got a little more used to their personnel, so we were a little bit smarter in the way we were guarding," said Huband. "We did try our press a bit more in the second half, but we also tried it in the first, so I think we just executed better and came out with more urgency."
The first half saw a terrific back-and-forth contest between the two clubs – neither gave much in the way of offence, as the largest advantage either team held in the opening 20 minutes was a 27-22 lead for the Timberwolves following a brief 8-4 stretch at the top of the second quarter.
Forcing Huband to call a timeout, the 'Birds bounced back in short order, as five steals in the frame's final 6:30 enabled them to cut the gap to 35-34 by halftime. Penn, who notched the final points of the half with a nifty buzzer-beating layup, led the 'Birds with 10 in the half.
The T-Birds took that momentum and hit another gear in the third quarter, reeling off a dominant 14-2 run to break the game open. All three of Spotton, Jessica Hanson, and Khanna knocked down multiple buckets over that stretch.
A solid pushback from the Timberwolves, particularly forward Louka, saw the visitors rally to cut the deficit to five, at 52-47 with just 3:28 left in the third quarter.
However, the 'Birds again flipped the script in the closing minutes of the third, taking advantage of some poor Timberwolves shooting and putting up another impressive 10-0 streak to finish the frame.
Leading 62-47 heading into the fourth, the 'Birds never really let the Wolves off the mat, as UNBC couldn't get within single digits, let alone threaten the 'Birds. After a relatively quite second half, Penn would put an exclamation mark on the game late, hitting a late triple as part of a personal 5-0 run to cap off the game's scoring.
The 'Birds and Timberwolves are back at it tomorrow night, as the two sides will tip-off at 5 p.m. (PT), once again in War Memorial Gym.