The University of the Fraser Valley basketball teams walked into UBC’s War Memorial Gymnasium, the traditional mecca of university hoops in this province, and made a compelling case that they’re now the standard-bearer among B.C. schools.
The Cascades women, ranked No. 2 in the nation, found themselves favoured against UBC for the first time in their seven-year tenure in the Canada West conference. They made good on the advance billing, blowing out the No. 10-ranked Thunderbirds 76-48 on Friday, and outlasting them 88-82 in a double-overtime thriller on Saturday.
The No. 8-ranked UFV men faced a tough test, as their UBC counterparts came in ranked No. 1 in Canada. The T-Birds won Friday’s opener 76-71, but the Cascades bounced back for a huge 89-77 upset victory on Saturday.
“It means a lot to us,” said UFV women’s head coach Al Tuchscherer, reflecting on the weekend. “Being new to Canada West and the CIS, we’ve always been trying to prove ourselves. UBC is kind of the big dog on the block, and I think it shows how far both of our programs have come.”
Just six games into the season, the undefeated Cascades women have done a lot of the heavy lifting towards clinching first place in the Pacific Division. They’ve already swept their season series against chief rivals UBC and UVic – those teams are currently tied for second at 4-2.
UFV led by two at halftime on Friday, then out-scored the T-Birds 26-9 in the third quarter to kick-start the blowout. Sarah Wierks paced the offence with 16 points, while Aieisha Luyken (15 points), Nicole Wierks (14) and Courtney Bartel (13) also scored in double figures.
UBC offered stiffer resistance on Saturday, building a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Cascades rallied, though, and actually had a chance to win in regulation, but Kayli Sartori’s layup rimmed out at the buzzer.
The T-Birds controlled the first OT, but Luyken’s buzzer-beating put-back forced a second extra session, and UFV pulled away in the second OT.
The Cascades struggled with their perimeter shooting, going just 2-for-16 from beyond the arc, but they out-rebounded UBC by a 52-37 margin.
Nicole Wierks scored a team-high 21 points, while Luyken registered 16. Three players posted double-doubles – Sarah Wierks (13 points and 14 rebounds), Bartel (13 and 11) and Sartori (12 and 11).
Kris Young led the way for UBC with 26 points and nine rebounds.
“Our second game, I didn’t think we were really where we needed to be,” Tuchscherer said. “We were caught standing around a lot.
“So it was a little bit disappointing that way. But it’s better to earn the ‘W’ and learn lessons than have it bite you, which it almost did.”
UFV MEN HEAT UP FROM DOWNTOWN
On the men’s side, the Cascades’ landmark triumph was a simple matter of hitting open jump shots.
The T-Birds geared their defensive game plan towards stopping Cascades power forward Kyle Grewal, sending double- and triple-teams his way with regularity. That left the three-point line wide open, and UFV hoisted 35 shots from beyond the arc on both Friday and Saturday.
In the first game the Cascades made just eight treys, but they swished 16 on Saturday for a scorching .457 success rate.
Rookie point guard Manny Dulay came off the bench to lead the bomb squad by going 4-for-5 from downtown, while Sam Freeman, James York and Nathan Kendall knocked down three treys apiece.
“We left Friday’s game really confident about Saturday, knowing that we took a lot of wide-open shots but didn’t have one of our best shooting nights,” said Cascades rookie head coach Adam Friesen, whose team improved to 3-3.
“During shoot-around on Saturday, we basically did nothing but shoot threes, knowing that as long as we moved the basketball and played unselfish, we were going to find open looks.”
The Cascades also made a major improvement in the rebounding department on Saturday. UBC crushed UFV 54-35 on the boards on Friday, but the Cascades battled their way to a 36-32 rebounding edge in the rematch.
Friesen called it “a special win.”
“I believe that’s the first time we’ve ever beat them in their gym, and not a lot of teams walk into War Memorial and come away victorious,” he noted. “For the fifth-year guys, it was their last shot to get a win against UBC in their gym, and to knock that off their to-do list was nice.”
Freeman, who missed last weekend’s games vs. UVic with a concussion, paced the Cascades both nights with 24 points on Friday and 20 on Saturday.
Kendall was a huge difference-maker on Saturday, scoring 15 points and hauling down a team-high nine rebounds. He was making his first career starts in the absence of centre Andy Khaira, who sat out with a groin/hamstring injury.
“He’s really grown in his confidence,” Friesen said of Kendall, a sophomore out of Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary who redshirted last season. “We’re starting to see him play basketball the way we’ve seen him play in open gyms and practices for years.”
• The Cascades basketball teams are at home this weekend, hosting the Manitoba Bisons (Friday, women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and the Winnipeg Wesmen (Saturday, women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.).