Buna’s Clan Win West

 

Clan win nail-biter 65-62 over Birds to take season series

Kate Hole’s 21 points lead No. 1 SFU to victory over No. 2 UBC

CREDIT: Richard Lam (UBC Athletics)

Julie Little drives past SFU’s Matteke Hutzler last season. Little scored 16 points in the Thunderbirds’ 81-62 win on Friday in Burnaby.

When the Houston Rockets silenced their doubters by repeating as NBA champions in 1995, their head coach Rudy Tomjanovich uttered his famous line "Never underestimate the heart of a champion."

On Saturday, the defending CIS women’s basketball champion and No. 1-ranked Simon Fraser Clan did their best to live up to those words, bouncing back from a disastrous 81-62 loss Friday at home to crosstown rival and No. 2-ranked UBC, beating the host Thunderbirds 65-62 in an epic battle at War Memorial Gym.

With nine games remaining in the regular season, SFU (13-1) is now sitting in the driver’s seat for the Pacific Division crown after winning the season series 2-1 against the T-Birds (12-2). The Clan crushed UBC 73-41 in an Oct. 27 game at SFU.

"I think this really proves what a team is all about, how good a team is, when you can rebound from a loss like the one we had on Friday," explained second-year SFU post Kate Hole, who scored a team-high 21 points for the winners. "After Friday’s loss, I know how awful it must have felt for UBC to have had such an off game. But really, what else can you do but lick your wounds and try and do better the next time."

After a 52-point swing in the first two games of the three-game regular season series, all that was missing from the nation’s best women’s basketball rivalry was a nail-biter. And that’s just what the two teams delivered Saturday in Vancouver.

UBC forward Julie Little’s driving layin through an SFU double team in the paint with 11 seconds remaining had pulled the T-Birds to within one at 63-62.

But UBC was forced to foul speedy guard Robyn Buna with 7.2 seconds remaining and she nailed both free throws to make the scoring complete.

Thunderbirds’ fifth-year point guard Cait Haggarty was able to create a three-point shot for herself that would have sent the game into overtime at the buzzer, but it front rimmed out as time expired.

Both teams acknowledged the playoff atmosphere the game carried, but also agreed that there are still enough trap doors in the regular season to think anything has yet been decided.

Said SFU head coach Bruce Langford: "It’s a building block but nothing’s built yet."

Added UBC’s Erica McGuinness who scored a game-high 23 points: "What it comes down to is late February, early March games and that’s when it matters. So we need to take something from this and learn."

Laurelle Weigl and Buna each scored 10 points in the win, while Little added 13 points and Leanne Evans 12 rebounds for UBC.

Friday’s win by UBC snapped a 24-game win streak for SFU dating back to last season.

The UBC men’s team (10-2), which returned Saturday evening after going 2-1 in exhibition play in Hawaii, opens conference play at Simon Fraser (7-5) on Tuesday (7 p.m.).

FRIDAY’S LIVE GAME COVERAGE

   

The best rivarly in Canadian women’s university basketball has also become the strangest.

How else can you explain the complete reversal of fortunes that accompanied the No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds’ 81-62 win over the No. 1-ranked and host Simon Fraser Clan on Friday, a Birds’ victory that came 10 weeks after the Clan humiliated UBC by a 73-41 count on Oct. 27 in their first of three regular season meetings?

That’s a 52-point swing, but more than anything, further reinforcement that there is no way to predict what is going to happen in the ongoing chess match between the nation’s two most dominant women’s programs.

The third and final regular season chapter was set for Saturday night at UBC’s War Memorial Gym, a rubber match that sees the two sides enter play with identical 12-1 records. UBC’s win snapped a 24-game Clan win streak that included a victory over Alberta in last season’s CIS national championship final.

"After the last game we wanted to right the ship," said UBC head coach Deb Huband, whose team’s aggressive offensive mindset was reflected in the fact that it made 34 trips to the free throw line (23-of-34) versus just 10 trips (4-for-10) in its earlier loss to SFU. "That was a very disappointing night for us and we’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and a lot of time to get better."

They biggest key Friday? Putting immediate pressure on the Clan’s interior defence with not only physical force inside, but with athletic finesse. And answering the bell in that regard was fifth-year senior forward Julie Little.

On UBC’s first possession of the game, Little got the ball inside and along the baseline executed a perfect spinning layin that served immediate notice that the Birds wanted to establish a painted presence. Little went on to finish with 16 points and is averaging 15.5 points against SFU this season.

"It was a lay-in clinic," said SFU head coach Bruce Langford of the T-Birds ability to score inside. "They got a million points in the paint. We didn’t compete in the paint, but we didn’t compete in very many places all night. And we didn’t finish worth a darn."

UBC not only doubled SFU’s free throw trips (34 to 16), they held the Clan to 29 per cent shooting from the field on the evening while shooting 48 per cent themselves. In their first meeting, SFU shot 54 per cent versus UBC’s 30 per cent.

Huband was happy with the creativity her front court rotation brought to the mix.

"We have versatility with some people who can take the ball off the dribble and also bring the power game," said Huband, referring to Little, and to rookies Zara Huntley (eight points, nine rebounds) and Alex Vieweg (six points) who combined to shoot 5-for-7 from the field.

Starting post Leanne Evans had seven points and 14 rebounds, while guards Erica McGuinness, Devan Lisson  and Cait Haggarty scored 17, 12 and 12 points respectively. Forward Kate Hole led the Clan with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Little’s presence was huge.

The Richmond native had elected not to return to the team this season to concentrate on her nursing studies, but had a change of heart before the start of the season.

"She’s got a real gift athletically," said Huband. "I thought she played with tremendous poise and she took advantage of the mathcups and allowed her strength to show through. She a tone for us early (with a team-leading 10 points at the half) and made a huge difference."

Added Langford: "Julie Little always seems to have her best games against us. Over her career I am sure she’s averaging more points against us."

Vieweg was also a big part of the win.

UBC’s bench outscored SFU’s 11-5 in the opening half, and the difference was the wiry quick and long freshman from North Vancouver’s Argyle Secondary.

Vieweg twice snaked her way into the paint for buckets, and also hit a short jumper, scoring all six of her points in just three minutes of floor time.

"I was happy to see that she felt confident," explained Huband. "All the shots that she hit were great shots for her to take. We were playing with composure and good spacing and that helped her get open for those shots."

Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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