Following a tough loss to Ryerson the previous evening, UBC beat the fifth-seeded McGill University Redmen 69-68 in the consolation B game and will now be fighting for fifth place in the CIS men’s Final 8 national basketball tournament against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
While the crowd was more modest than UBC’s previous matchup, there were still plenty of Thunderfans sporting their blue and gold. The thrilling final minutes of the game kept fans on the edge of their seats, cheering the T-Birds in their second game of the tournament.
UBC was quick to start the scoring with David Wagner posting up twice in the opening two minutes of the first quarter. A pair of three-pointers from Conor Morgan put the T-Birds up 11-0 just three minutes in.
With strong pressure defence early on, coach Kevin Hanson’s squad kept McGill to only four points halfway through the opening frame.
UBC extended their lead by swinging the ball around the arc and hitting a string of three-pointers. Within five minutes, Phil Jalalpoor scored two baseline threes, with Patrick Simon and Will Ondrik netting one a piece.
McGill picked up some momentum shooting a pair of long jumpers late in the quarter, but it was Wagner with a tough hook shot that put UBC up 25-15 by the end of the opening period.
Rookie Taylor Browne, who started to see floortime early in the game, nailed his patented corner three-point shot to start the scoring in the second quarter.
A.J. Holloway sprinted along the baseline to pick up a nifty block midway through the quarter, while Morgan extended for two swats of his own. Morgan was responsible for a lot of the excitement generated in the bleachers. A mid-quarter alley-oop shot off an inbound got the fans out of their seats and even more into the game.
Coach Hanson used the ’Birds extended lead to play some of his bench players. Luka Zaharijevic showed leadership on the court, knocking down a layup and midrange jumper in the quarter.
Great shooting from UBC from Wagner, who netted 14 points by halftime, was the story of the half. Morgan showed leadership on both ends of the court, notching 11 points along with two steals and the aforementioned two blocks to boot.
The third quarter saw the Redmen running a tighter, more organized offence straight out the gate. Jensen-Whyte picked up a quick lay-up with a foul called, followed by another lay in moments after.
McGill’s shooting struggles continued as they missed three straight layups and a three-pointer midway through the period. A late defensive push — including an effective full-court press — allowed McGill to slow the ’Birds’ momentum in the final five minutes of the quarter.
A string of turnovers from both sides late in the frame was characterized by quick back-and-forth transition basketball. Morgan knocked down a pair of free throws to keep UBC’s lead at 58-46 entering the final quarter.
Scoring was slow entering the final frame, until Wagner — being fouled — hit a tough layup under the basket just under two minutes in the quarter.
The T-Birds found some energy midway through the quarter. Although struggling to hit transition layups, they aggressively pushed the ball up the court.
McGill’s offensive frustration came in the form of an increasingly scrappy defence as the Redmen picked up an unsportsmanlike foul on Jalalpoor and a reaching foul in the same possession.
Failing to break the full court press, McGill’s Jenning Leung picked up a pair of steals and hit impressive back-to-back three-pointers to narrow the T-Birds to 65-63 with under three minutes in the game.
A pair of transition layups from McGill’s Michael Peterkin tied the game at 67 in the final two minutes, only before the Redmen hit a foul shot and took their first lead of the game with under a minute left.
After Peterkin missed both free throws for McGill, the T-Birds capitalized and Jensen-Whyte hit a pair of free throws for a 69-68 UBC lead. In a thrilling final play, McGill missed a buzzer-beater three pointer that rolled off the rim to send UBC to the consolation final.
Wagner led UBC with 21 points and Morgan contributed 16 points, while the two combined for 10 rebounds.
“We really can't let that pressure at the end of the game get us,” said Wagner. “It bit us last night and it came way too close to biting us again tonight. We have to find a way to figure that out and not get so startled.”