The UBC Thunderbirds pulled away in the second half to knock off the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades 71-62 on the opening night of the Canada West regular season at War Memorial Gym.
The host Thunderbirds held a 31-30 lead at halftime, and they were able to expand their advantage to double digits midway through the fourth quarter and fend off the Cascades down the stretch.
UBC’s Keylyn Filewich and Maddison Penn tied for game-high scoring honours with 21 points apiece, while Shayna Litman sparked the Cascades with 19 points and eight rebounds.
The two teams clash again on Saturday at War Memorial, with tip-off set for 5 p.m. (CanadaWest.tv).
“We competed hard at times, but I think we had a few stretches there where we just didn’t play intelligent basketball and UBC really made us pay the price for it,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “You can’t have those lapses.”
Litman and Penn led their squads offensively during a closely contested first half. Cascades fifth-year forward Litman poured in 10 points over the opening 20 minutes, while UBC’s Penn counted a pair of three-pointers among her 12 points at the break.
The Thunderbirds extended their lead in small chunks, but the Cascades hung tough. Midway through the third, UBC scored six straight points to go up 43-34, but UFV responded with buckets in the paint from Taylor Claggett and Jessica Zawada to stay within striking distance.
In the fourth, a layup by Filewich put the hosts up 60-50 with just over five minutes remaining, but a pair of free throws and a three-pointer by Sara Simovic allowed UFV to cut the deficit to 62-55. Penn, though, put the game away – on consecutive possessions, she put back an offensive rebound and knocked down a triple to make it 69-57 with just over two minutes to go.
Litman had an efficient shooting night, going 7-for-12 from the field. Simovic chipped in with 12 points, highlighted by a 7-for-8 performance from the free throw line, and Kate Head (nine points, 4-of-5 from the field) and Taylor Claggett (nine points, 10 rebounds) also contributed offensively. UFV did not fare well from beyond the arc, hitting just 2-of-14 attempts.
Filewich made 10-of-13 attempts from the field for the T-Birds, and Penn had a double-double with 13 rebounds. Jessica Hanson, with 11 points, also scored in double figures for UBC.
“It’s nice to say that we were close, but we’re playing games to win,” Tuchscherer said. “They were better than us tonight, and we need to be a lot better tomorrow. We weren’t particularly sharp. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter – you’ve got to knock down some open shots, and we struggled with that.”