Strong start for UNBC basketball

Basketball season for the Timberwolves (their first in CIS play) has begun fairly smoothly. After a home stand against UBC-Okanagan and Trinity Western wrapped up this past weekend, the UNBC programs sit at a combined 7-5 record, with the men at 4-2 and women at 3-3.

While the opposition faced by the men to date isn’t expected to be among the top of the conference, winning the majority of the games against TRU, UBC-O, and TWU was crucial to qualify for the postseason. The men now enjoy a two game cushion over those schools and Mount Royal for fourth place in the Pacific Division; a very good spot, as the top four teams qualify for the playoffs. Leading the way for the men thus far are Sam Raphael, averaging 18.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and Francis Rowe, averaging 17.5 points per game – Rowe’s numbers bolstered by having not missed a single free throw to this point. Rowe and Raphael also lead the team in floor time at over 30 minutes each, while their younger brothers Elliot and Josh still have yet to see any minutes themselves.

The women have been led by Mercedes VanKoughnett, as expected. The team captain is continuing to average a double-double of 16 points and 11.3 rebounds per game after three weeks, and leads both teams in floor time. Third-year point guard Jordyn Rabbitt has also been noticeable on the court, eating up a lot of minutes, and is frequently found just outside the three-point line. Rebounding is clearly a team strength for the women; they lead all of Canada West with an impressive 47.8 rebounds per game, and at more than one point during the last two weeks a game’s tide was changed by a streak of five or more rebounds in a row. Another recurring theme for the women, likely tied to rebounding, is going on improbable scoring runs to pull away from or tie games, such as a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter against UBC-O last weekend.  The men’s runs have seemed to be scored in the first quarter, as evidenced by the 22-2 run they rattled off in the early minutes of the home opener against Trinity Western, and an 18-4 lead they opened against UBC-O last Friday.

The regular season now shifts to the interdivisional play, as UNBC will head to the prairie provinces for a road trip next weekend against Lethbridge and Calgary. Despite their 6-0 record, Calgary’s suprising women’s team has yet to see themselves in the national Top 10 – a fact likely to change by press day. The Dinos’ men’s team is 2-4, and both Lethbridge teams sit at 3-3.

Visiting UNBC after the team returns from Alberta will be the Universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which ends the 2012 portion of the schedule; the exam and holiday break follows, at which point no Canada West games will be played until the second weekend in January. UNBC plans to stay in game form, however, due to a tournament in Winnipeg between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

by Geoff Sargent

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