If there is one thing the UBC men’s basketball team knows how to do, it’s scoring.
During both games this past week against the Trinity Western University Spartans (2-4) at War Memorial Gym, the Thunderbirds (4-0) put up more than 100 points, making it 3 straight games where the team has broken the century mark.
With the offence running on all cylinders, TWU was left in the dust as they could do little to stop UBC’s up-tempo game. They were soundly defeated 104-75 on Thursday night and clobbered 103-75 on Saturday by a UBC team who looked like they were playing a game of pick-up out in the school yard.
Once the T-Birds were able to get their fast break going in the second quarter on Saturday night, they were able to break open a 21-21 game and never look back.
It’s that lethal fast break and quick ball movement that is pivotal to UBC’s success on offence. Once fifth-year point guard Nathan Yu hits top gear and starts running circles around the opposition, open shots and easy lay-ups are created.
I could not help but be reminded of two-time NBA MVP and Victoria native Steve Nash while watching Yu run the floor. Yu’s combination of speed, accurate passing and long-range shooting leads to large point totals for not only him, but his teammates.
The Thunderbirds, as a team, also remind me a lot of the Phoenix Suns teams that Nash played for during his MVP days. A few years ago the Suns were another high-scoring team who relied heavily on a successful fast break. However, their defence was lacklustre at times.
When the ‘Birds are on their game, the opposition has a very tough time creating good scoring opportunities against them. But there have been a few times when UBC has looked like the Suns on defence, and other teams have been able to go on short scoring runs.
UBC has been lucky enough to make up for these letdowns by scoring a lot, but against stronger opponents this may be a cause for concern. The Phoenix Suns were able to mask their lacklustre D in the regular season by scoring an enormous amounts of points, but once they got to the playoffs they were beaten by more defensive minded teams.
Thankfully, UBC’s defence has been quite strong for the most part. The positives on this side of the ball have outnumbered the negatives, and I have reason to believe that the ‘Birds will only get tougher to score on.
On Saturday night they forced TWU into 29 turnovers and were able to turn that into 44 points. Head coach Kevin Hanson expressed how creating those turnovers are extremely important to how the offence plays.
“We really made our run when we got some deflections, we got some loose balls and we just scored in transition,” said Hanson following the Saturday night game.
As long as that defence remains tough, the fast break will be there. And as long as the fast break is there, the points will be on the board.
The up-tempo style of playing has been known to wear down players as they are always running full speed, but UBC should be an exception to this. Their bench, though filled with youngsters, has players who are playing like starters. This enables Hanson to always have fresh legs on the floor.
“I thought we did a very good job of sharing the basketball. Different guys contributed, and it makes us very difficult (to play against) if we have a lot of different guys producing for us,” said Hanson.
Malcolm Williams has been the most impressive player coming off the bench, as he is playing well beyond his years. He may be a true freshman, but he has stepped up his game to take on and dominate much older players.
He’s been averaging close to 30 minutes a game and consistently scoring in the double figures.
“I think he’s been one of our most complete players this year,” said Hanson.
Second-year Tommy Nixon and first-year Nakai Luyken have also provided sparks off the bench, providing strong play on both ends of the floor.
There is a good system in place for the T-Birds. Once starters Yu, Graham Bath, Kamar Burke, Balraj Bains and Doug Plumb come off the floor they are replaced by younger guys who work just as hard and put up the same impressive results.
UBC has found the winning combination so far, and if they keep playing this way they will undoubtedly have yet another successful season.
If the ‘Birds avoid playing too much like the Phoenix Suns, then their regular season success will translate into playoff success.