MBB: Sunga, Timberwolves use big fourth quarter to top WolfPack 83-75
The UNBC Timberwolves took a major step towards locking in a Canada West playoff spot, using a big fourth quarter to top the TRU WolfPack 83-75, thrilling the Northern Sport Centre crowd and completing the weekend sweep on Saturday, February 4th, 2023 in Prince George, BC.
“It feels good. We have been working really hard all season, so it’s nice to come through and get a sweep in our last home weekend,” said UNBC’s electrifying forward Fareed Shittu. “We are just having fun, honestly. In practice, we have been working really hard and are locked in. So we are out there playing free and having fun.”
In the first quarter, the Pack and TWolves took turns keeping a grip on the lead, as momentum seemed to be fleeting for both teams in the early going. TRU got a little breathing room late in the frame thanks to a Cyrus Harrison triple and a Tyler Schilling layup, stretching the visitors’ lead to 17-9.
Reserve Dylon Matthews made a three, followed by a Fareed Shittu trey, and the Timberwolves found themselves down 22-17 at the end of the quarter.
Todd Jordan’s team dug in defensively in the second quarter after Daniel Bost and Harrison made back-to-back jumpers to make it a nine-point deficit. Shooting guard Micah Jessie made a pair of stepback triples, followed by two of his signature slicing drives, all of which were complimented by a Shittu, Chris Ross, and Justin Sunga threes. Asher Mayan would lead TRU’s attack with a pair of jumpers of his own, but UNBC held a 40-38 lead at half.
“You can let the game come to you. We don’t have one guy forcing it every time,” said Ross, postgame. “You take the good opportunities. Today, I thought they were a little soft on me, so I had lots of open shots. So did Micah, and he had a great game too.”
In the third quarter, TRU coach Scott Clark made some adjustments defensively, slowing UNBC’s offense with some different looks. The defensive success seemed to lead to energy at the offensive end as forward Denys Bachurin was effective at getting to his spots for buckets inside, and Bost made another trey to give the Pack a moderate lead. But UNBC threw a haymaker back, as the Sunga-Jessie backcourt did well to make tough shots and cut the deficit to 58-54 heading into the final frame.
With so much on the line for the Timberwolves, UNBC needed a big fourth quarter in their final ten minutes on home hardwood, and that’s exactly what they got. The captain, Chris Ross started hot and stayed hot, making shot after shot, going for 14 points in the quarter and delighting the NSC fans in attendance.
After being down 60-54, the TWolves went on a 16-0 run, with a thunderous Shittu dunk serving as the exclamation mark at the 4:00 mark. In true WolfPack fashion, TRU wouldn’t stay down, as Bachurin and Harrison scored in transition, making it a four-point game in the dying minutes. However, that’s as close as they’d come, as Spencer Ledoux got a jumper to go, followed by another Ross triple to seal it 83-75 for UNBC.
“They made some good shots. They ran their offense pretty diligently, getting a lot of really good paint touches,” said TRU veteran Asher Mayan. “They caught on to what we were doing with our offense and stalled us a little bit. At the end of the day, it was a close game, so we aren’t going to hang our heads based on that fourth quarter.”
Ross finished with 20 points, to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, while Jessie had 20 points, three assists, and three rebounds. Shittu finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, but the story was another huge performance by first-year guard Justin Sunga, who had 20 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and two steals.
“Honestly, I am impressed, but I am not surprised,” said Shittu of his freshman teammate. “I have known he has had talent for so long. The first time I saw him play, I knew he was special.”
TRU was led by Mayan, who registered 17 points, seven steals, and six rebounds, as well as rookie Cyrus Harrison who had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Bachurin added 13 points and six boards.
“Such a young team. Especially with the rookies and the second-years, it has been so encouraging,” said Mayan. “A privilege for me as an older guy to see their growth. We are going to take that into next year. We have learned a lot of lessons through the losses and the wins. We are excited for what the future holds for this team, and we are not going to hang our heads. We know there is much more to come.”
With the win, UNBC improves to 8-10, while the WolfPack fall to 5-13 on the season. The Timberwolves will complete their regular season in Brandon against the Bobcats (10-8) next weekend.
“We had fun today, to be honest. We talked about it all week at practice. We were coming off a big losing streak, but we got one at MRU and got two here,” said Ross. “It’s been great. We have been having fun. We loosened up. We are basketball players, so we are just playing some basketball.”