MBB: Timberwolves offense rolls; UNBC tops WolfPack 87-73
When the ball is moving, the UNBC Timberwolves offense can electrify a crowd and make it hard on any team in Canada West. That’s exactly what happened today, as five TWolves scored in double figures and UNBC topped the visiting TRU WolfPack 87-73 on Friday, February 3rd, 2023 in Prince George, BC.
“I have to give credit to Todd (Jordan). It was out offensive plan from the start of the year, sharing the ball and getting people moving,” said Hunter. “We have a lot of guys who can attack off closeouts and get to the rim, and with Spencer down low, it is a one-on-one nightmare for the opposing coach. We need to lock in when we have advantages and find guys. That’s what we did today.”
In the first quarter, it was the WolfPack hopping out to an early lead, fuelled by an Asher Mayan triple and early free throws. The two teams played hot potato with the lead and possession of any substantial momentum most of the frame, as UNBC first-year forward Evgeny Baukin came off the bench and thrilled the crowd with some tough finishes in the paint.
Daniel Bost, TRU’s oldest and most experienced player, made back-to-back jumpers, but an athletic alley-oop layup at the buzzer by Baukin made it a 16-15 game after ten minutes.
“He played well for us last game too, contributing to the big win at MRU,” said Justin Sunga, of his fellow freshman, Baukin. “I think he is getting his confidence. As a first-year, it is quite overwhelming. Now that he has his confidence, it is really good for us.”
In the second quarter, UNBC’s offense came alive. Chris Ross made a corner three to start things off, followed by a triple from first-year guard Justin Sunga. Bost continued to shoot well for the Pack, but whenever he made a jumper, UNBC would respond with a good finish from Sunga, Ross, Darren Hunter, or Kamloops product Spencer Ledoux. At the half, the TWolves held a 47 34 advantage.
“We continued to share the ball. That gives us a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end,” said Sunga. “We really stuck to the defensive gameplan, so that really worked out for us.”
After a scoreless first half, due to foul trouble and limited minutes, Fareed Shittu made his impact felt in the third frame. After Denys Bachurin scored four early points, and the deficit got tighter with a Cyrus Harrison three, Shittu scored eight consecutive points for the Timberwolves, including two thundering dunks that took the roof off the NSC.
Bachurin answered for the Pack, continuing to get to his spot for buckets inside, before an Evan Smith triple cut the lead to 68-61; the score heading to the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, with massive playoff implications at stake, UNBC did enough to hold off the visitors from Kamloops. Shittu made a three before Sunga put his stamp on the game, getting back-to-back steals, an acrobatic layup, and another three-pointer to go, re-establishing the Timberwolves’ double-digit lead.
From there, despite TRU’s best efforts, the TWolves sealed the game and held on for the 87-73 victory.
“Our effort wasn’t what it needed to be. This was our biggest game of the year and we came out flat in the first half and came out flat in the second half,” said TRU veteran Simon Crossfield. “We picked it up in the last 15 minutes of the game, but it was too little, too late at that point.”
Sunga led the way with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals, and a perfect 4-for-4 night from three-point land, staking his claim to a spot on the Canada West All-Rookie team.
Shittu had 16 points, Ledoux had 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists, Baukin scored 14 points, while Hunter added 11 points and four helpers.
Mayan, Bachurin, and Bost each had 14 points to pace the WolfPack, while Cyrus Harrison had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Evan Smith chipped in with 10 points.
With the win, UNBC improves to 7-10, while the WolfPack fall to 5-12. With only three games remaining on the Canada West schedule, Saturday’s rematch is of the utmost importance to the conference playoff race.
“We have to come out with a better effort tomorrow,” said Crossfield, postgame. “Our season is on the line. If we can’t come out and show it tomorrow, there is no point in showing up. We have to come out tomorrow and get a split.”
The two teams tip-off at 6 PM at the Northern Sport Centre, in the final home game of the season for the TWolves.
“We can’t be too high on today. There are a lot of things we can do better,” said Hunter. “We need to improve on what we did today, and come back with the same mindset tomorrow. We need to try to hold them back with our defense.”