USPORT

Thunderbirds hit the road to meet the Heat

The Matchup

The No. 6 UBC Thunderbirds (13-3) return to the road where they'll meet the UBC Okanagan Heat (2-14) this Friday and Saturday January 26 and 27. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since just over a year ago in early December of 2016 when the 'Birds swept a weekend series in convincing fashion against the Heat by scores of 100-64 and 96-49. This weekend's action gets going on Friday night at 8 p.m. PT at the UBC Okanagan Gymnasium while the rematch goes Saturday at 7 p.m. PT. 

Photo: Bob Frid (UBC Athletics)

Last Action

The T-Birds improved their home record to 10-0 with a weekend sweep against the MacEwan Griffins with scores of 96-72 on Friday night followed by a 93-66 decision on Saturday. The Heat lost both of their contests on the road against the Calgary Dinos by scores of 101-56 and 79-66. 

By the Numbers

47.8 – The average number of rebounds the 'Birds average per game which ranks first overall in Canada West. 19.8 – The average number of assists per game the T-Birds dish out which also ranks tops overall in the conference.

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Photo: Bob Frid (UBC Athletics)

 

Players to Watch

Taylor Browne (#5, G) – The third-year guard provided instant offence last weekend combining for 30 points, 24 of which were from beyond the arc in back to back wins over MacEwan. Browne is averaging 9.1 points per game, but leads the team in three-point field goal percentage (44 per cent). Luka Zaharijevic (#15, F) – The fifth-year forward made his presence felt in the paint in sweeping the Griffins last weekend combining for 27 points and 22 rebounds. The Kitsilano native was especially dominant on Friday night scoring a team high 22 points while adding 11 rebounds. 

Coach's Take

Thunderbirds head coach Kevin Hanson was pleased with the contributions and depth scoring from throughout his roster last weekend. "We had our moments where we looked pretty good and we also had moments where we showed vulnerability in certain areas," said Hanson. "In terms of depth I was very excited to see Mason (Bourcier) play 40 minutes on Friday night, I believe it's a first in my time here that a freshman has played 40 minutes in a game, his best as a 'Bird. Luka (Zaharijevic) was able to score inside at will which was nice to see because he's something special that a lot of teams in the country don't have as a true number five man, and if he can draw double teams and play consistently that will make us dangerous." "We're still trying to focus on the defensive side," Hanson added. "We're still able to put points on the boards and we've got a lot of guys that can score, but we need to find more guys that are interested in getting stops and changing their mental aspects. Our depth has been an asset throughout the year, we've played a lot of guys in a lot of games which can be good and bad, but we're still trying to sort out some roles, believe it or not, and it's a work in progress." Hanson knows his team will be facing a gritty, motivated opponent this weekend. "Head coach Pete Guarasci has a lot of experience as a professional player and been with the national program for a lot of years," Hanson said. "They've had some tough times this year but they're in most of these games that they're playin. Every week they play hard and they've got guys stepping up into bigger roles. Their leading scorer, Aldrich Berrios, can shoot the lights out and get hot at any time so they can be a scary team having played close games against top teams in the conference. They'll be excited to play us and we have a few players from Kelowna so that always gives teams a little more incentive to want to play hard."