Barn burner at War: T-Birds sink Gaiters and Warriors in UBC Invitational

On Friday night, the men’s basketball team opened their season in emphatic fashion — claiming a 99-92 victory in exhibition play against the Bishop’s Gaiters in the UBC Invitational.

The ’Birds made light work of the visitors in the opening quarter. Phil Jalalpoor dictated proceedings, darting into the paint at will and finding open cutters with a variety of passes. The German guard didn’t break a sweat controlling the tempo of the game enroute to a 24-11 lead at the end of the first.

Rookies Mason Bourcier and Grant Audu each made their presence felt as they entered the contest. Audu brought a frenetic energy, soaring for consecutive acrobatic finishes at the rim. In contrast, Bourcier was remarkably steady as the primary ball handler, continually feeding the big men in the paint. Bourcier’s contributions didn’t show up on the box score, but he definitely gained attention for his composed play and smart decision making.

After a dominant first two quarters, Bishop’s began to have their own Thanksgiving feast in the paint and on the boards.

As UBC’s lead began to dwindle to single digits, coach Kevin Hanson juggled through lineups in hopes of finding a spark. Thankfully, Conor Morgan blew by his opposing defender for an emphatic dunk, snapping the ’Birds out of their turkey-induced food coma early in the fourth quarter.

Morgan had a feisty affair all game with his matchup Duncan Lambert, who — if nothing else — had a trash talking game reminiscent of Michael Jordan.

Mason Bourcier sets up for a free throw.
Mason Bourcier sets up for a free throw. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

A deep triple from guard Jauquin Bennet-Boire off of a beautiful kick out pass from Luka Zaharijevic sealed the game midway through the fourth as the ’Birds cruised towards the finish line. There was certainly some rust on display for UBC as they opened their 2017 campaign. However, the first half provided a glimpse into the potential force this squad can be on both ends of the floor.

The Thunderbirds kept that momentum going into Saturday’s match up against the Waterloo Warriors, scoring over 20 points in each quarter and burying the Warriors in the fourth quarter as they added a final 30 points to the scoreboard.

Breaking the three digit barrier, the game ended 105-73 in favour of the home team.

Big Baller of the weekend

The most important thing in all of professional basketball is unequivocally Lavar Ball and the Big Baller Brand, and as such this weekly award will be named in his honour.

The recipient of the inaugural Big Baller award goes to Luka Zaharijevic for his dominant display in both games this weekend. Zaharijevic looks to have aspirations for a positional change — entering the season with a new lean frame and providing countless deft passes to wide open shooters. The ‘Bazooka’ also shot an astonishing 87 per cent from the floor and was a consistent presence on the low post offensively.

In a close second for the award is UBC Athletics for finally getting rid of the horrific teal court design at War Memorial gym. Basketball’s home no longer resembles a middle school gym with thousands of lines painted across it, and the royal blue design actually matches the ’Birds jerseys.