‘Birds Look to Extend Winning Streak During Courtside Weekend Showdown vs.
VANCOUVER – After a road heavy start to their 2022-23 Canada West season, the UBC Thunderbirds are set to begin a stretch of seven consecutive games on their home court. Friday at War Memorial Gym marks Courtside weekend, and Erin McAleenan’s UBC Thunderbirds (9-3) look to notch their fifth straight victory when they clash with the Canada West leading Regina Cougars (10-2).
The blue and gold are coming off a dominant road weekend where they swept Thompson Rivers by a combined margin of 154-62. Friday’s result was a 71-36 triumph, followed by an 83-26 encore the next night. 26 points against was the fewest points surrendered by UBC in Canada West competition since November 11th, 2011 vs. Brandon.
“Our defense is our biggest strength,” remarked head coach Erin McAleenan when reflecting on the weekend in Kamloops. “We’ve taken some big strides forward in recent weeks to improve our focus defensively. We’ve been able to force turnovers and create more offense as a result of good defence.” UBC forced 27 steals on TRU Saturday, 12 of which came from the duo of Cerys Merton (6) and Sara Toneguzzi (6).
Offensively the ‘Birds continue to receive balanced scoring, but Saturday in particular was a big night for second-year guard Olivia Weekes. The Winnipeg, MB product matched her Canada West single-game career high with 26 points on 9/11 shooting.
“Olivia had a strong summer, and grew a lot during her first season last year, which has allowed her to play more consistently this season,” shared McAleenan. “One of her biggest strengths is that she finds different ways to score. She’s been consistent from mid-range and in, but can also hit three-point shots when given the chance. Not only has she been consistent offensively, but defensively she’s taken a big step and often has been tasked with guarding the opposing team’s top players.”
Weekes and her teammates are in for one of their toughest challenges to date this weekend when they welcome the co-league-leading Regina Cougars to town. After an 8-8 record last season, Regina finds themselves tied with the University of Saskatchewan for the top record in Canada West. They’ve averaged 82.9 points-per-game which trails only Saskatchewan.
“They’re one of the best offensive teams in all of Canada West. They play with strong pace and they’ve got a number of different players that can hit the three,” concluded Erin McAleenan. “But we’ve shown this season that we are one of the best teams in Canada West at defending the three-point shot, so this weekend will be a big test for both teams. We’re excited to be back home especially with Courtside and being able to play in front of a rowdy home crowd. Our girls are excited for the challenge to see where we matchup against one of the best teams in the country.”
The home double-header weekend begins Friday at 5:00 pm PT for UBC. The two teams will then meet again Saturday at 4:00 pm. Tickets for both games can be purchased HERE. You can also watch live on Canada West TV.