VANCOUVER – A dominant performance in the low post and on the glass helped the UBC Thunderbirds down the Alberta Golden Bears 96-67 on Sunday to take the series and move on to the Canada West Final Four.
UBC was led by the big man duo of Brylle Kamen and David Wagner, who had their way with the Bears under the basket all game long. Both players posted double doubles, with Kamen racking up 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Wagner added 11 point and 10 rebounds.
That helped the ‘Birds win the rebounding battle 47-25 and kept their shooting percentage up over 58 for the game, with so many of their looks coming from close to the hoop.
“When he’s rebounding, we do a whole lot better on the boards,” UBC head coach Kevin Hanson said of Kamen. “Last night he struggled a bit, and he’s had three teeth pulled in the last couple weeks so he’s not able to eat food normally and his energy levels have been bad. He actually had some baby food last night because he can’t chew protein yet, but tonight he came out and showed some real leadership, and he was a huge part of what happened today.”
Kenneth Otieno led the Bears with 20 points and six rebounds off the bench. Adam Weir battled through foul trouble all game to come away with 17 points on 5-5 field goal shooting, making him one of just two Alberta players to shoot over 33 per cent.
For UBC, Doug Plumb, O’Brian Wallace and Geoff Pippus all joined Kamen and Wagner scoring in double digits.
The T-Birds were the best rebounding team in the conference this season, but they got into trouble in that area in their loss to Alberta on Saturday, thanks in part to Kamen seeing his minutes limited by fouls and his energy struggles. That caused them to lose the rebounding battle and eventually the game, but Kamen and his teammates came out determined not to be outworked again on Sunday.
UBC started the game on a 12-0 run, keeping Alberta off the scoreboard entirely for almost half of the first quarter. Kamen and Wagner were both imposing their will on the Golden Bears down low, each pulling down eight rebounds by halftime to give UBC a 25-12 advantage on the glass.
“To see us fired up like that in the first quarter was real exciting because we haven’t had that real killer instinct for a few weeks now,” said Hanson.
The Pandas got nothing going offensively in the first half, shooting under 19 per cent and unable to get to the foul line with any regularity. Their starters shot a combined 2-22 in the half.
“That was the kind of defense we wanted to play last night,” Hanson said. “Last night we got behind and burned a lot of energy playing catch-up. Today we didn’t give them many looks and made a couple adjustments on the ball screen which had hurt us all week, and I thought our guys adjusted well. The effort and energy level was tremendous.”
Alberta heated up for 27 points in the third and managed to create several turnovers, but the hole was already far too big to dig out of. They finished the game shooting 31 per cent from the floor.
“I give Barnaby (Craddock, Alberta head coach) a lot of credit. He did a tremendous job making that team as good as they were without one of the best players in the country playing for them,” Hanson said, referring to Alberta losing Jordan Baker for several games, including the playoff series.
The loss ends the season for the Golden Bears, while the T-Birds now move on to host the Canada West Final Four as the team that finished the regular season with the conference’s best record.
The ‘Birds will be joined by Winnipeg, Victoria, and Fraser Valley series. The teams that advance to the Canada West title game will also qualify for nationals, and there is one additional at-large berth up for grabs nationally.
The Final Four begins on Friday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m., when the host T-Birds will take on the fourth-seeded team. The two and three seeds then play at 8:45.
The bronze medal game goes at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, followed by the gold medal game at 8 p.m.