The UBC men’s basketball team started strong in 2016, sweeping University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 95-73 Friday and 85-79 on Saturday at War Memorial Gym. After making adjustments over the holiday break, coach Kevin Hanson’s squad have now improved their Canada West conference record to 8-2.
Phillip Jalalpoor led the scoring on Friday with 19 points, followed by Patrick Simon who posted 16 points. Veterans Conor Morgan and David Wagner tallied 15 points each and combined for four blocks.
On Saturday night, the T-Birds were quick to establish a lead after scoring eight points within the first two minutes of the game, including three consecutive layups from Morgan.
The ’Birds also set a disciplined defensive tone for the matchup with a pair of steals each from Morgan and Jalalpoor after only four minutes of action.
Buoyed by four assists from veteran guard Jordan Jensen-Whyte, UBC shot 62.5 per cent in the first frame and led the Pronghorns 23-16.
In the second quarter, a renewed defensive push from Lethbridge left the ’Birds shooting only 29.4 per cent from the field.
Strong rebounding from UBC forwards Simon and Wagner slowed the ’Horn’s momentum while Morgan, being fouled, banked in a layup off his weak-side with two minutes left in the half.
The Pronghorns posted 10 points in the paint and outscored UBC 20-15 to narrow the T-Bird’s lead to 38-36 by halftime.
Both teams continued to battle back-and-forth to open the second half, although UBC widened their lead to 49-40 following a jump shot from Jensen-Whyte midway through the quarter. Jensen-Whyte netted eight points and shot 4-4 from the free throw line in the quarter.
Aggressive offensive play from Will Ondrik, including a rebound and layup with less than three minutes left in the quarter, briefly pushed the T-Bird’s lead to 10.
The ’Horns answered with a last second jumper from Rob Olsen that brought the tally to 58-54 with a slight edge for UBC entering the final quarter.
The final frame proved to be the most exciting with the ’Horns closing the gap late in the game and UBC notching several highlight-reel plays
UBC maintained their 10-point lead with six minutes left after Simon delivered an emphatic dunk, cutting between two Pronghorn defenders in the lane.
However, the ’Horns were not quick to accept defeat. A layup from one of the top Lethbridge scorers, Brandon Brine, had their team within two points of the T-Birds at 77-75 by the two minute mark.
With under a minute left, Ondrik hit an off-balance jumper to beat the shot clock and give the ’Birds a 79-75 lead over the victory-hungry Pronghorns.
Ondrik finished the game with 12 points and 9 rebounds, all while making several big plays down the stretch. Regarding his standout performance, Ondrik’s attitude was clear — “I’m here for whatever the team needs me to do. We have a lot of really talented players [and] whoever is hot on one night [can] make big shots.”
The men’s basketball squad heads to Winnipeg next weekend to face off in a doubleheader against the Manitoba Bisons.