Opening round upset ends men’s basketball season

Last week, the Thunderbirds travelled to the University of Manitoba to suit up for the opening round of the Canada West playoffs, where they fell to the UNBC Timberwolves, 86–76, ending their season.

Even though the scoring was kicked off with an energetic slam dunk from T-Bird Tobi Akinkunmi, the opening minutes of the game were tough, back-and-forth displays of defence. At the end of the quarter, the ‘Birds had squeaked ahead, 17–14. Of those combined 31 first quarter points, 22 of them came from inside the key.

The struggle to shoot slowly eased in the second as both teams began to pick up offensively. It was a tight race all the way to the half. However, this time, the Timberwolves went into the break with the lead, up 38–35.

Following halftime, the opening minutes of the second half had both teams exchanging blows from beyond the arc. UBC freshman Arnaud Konan converted on a three, only for the T-Wolves to do the same thing. However, Konan bounced back. Off that same inbounds play, he received the ball to take it up court. He barely crossed half before lobbing it to the midair Fareed Shittu for the slam dunk. But, unsurprisingly, the Timberwolves came charging back with yet another two threes of their own.

With four minutes left in the third, coming out of a timeout, the ‘Birds looked to raise their defensive intensity, applying a full court press on the Wolves. They were able to get some of the defensive stops they were looking for but unfortunately, couldn’t produce on the offensive end to counter. Buckets off back-to-back possessions for James Woods closed out the quarter, cutting the deficit to eight.

The T-Birds came out hungry to start the fourth. Following a couple more successful offensive executions, the ‘Birds closed the gap to just four. But the Wolves kept their lead with a barrage of threes, extending the lead up to 14 with 5 minutes to go.

Frustration began to set in for the ‘Birds, with Akinkunmi picking up his fifth foul and sending him to the bench.

As the Timberwolves were looking to add to their lead, Shittu came out of nowhere and forcefully swatted a shot attempt.

Following a bucket from Woods, Adam Olsen took matters into his own hands. He connected on a three and, the following possession, he charged toward the hoop, sinking it through contact and converting the free throw. More T-Birds points brought this run up to 12–0 with just under two minutes left to go in the game.

But, very quickly, the tides turned once more.

The Timberwolves capitalized on their final possessions while the ‘Birds desperately tried to keep things close with threes, but ultimately couldn’t find the net. In the final 90 seconds of the game, the Wolves executed well, finishing on a 14–6 run to close out for the win.

The loss marks the end of the basketball season, and the last game for senior Woods, who finished with a team high 25 points on 50 per cent shooting. Right behind him was Fareed Shittu, who put up 17 points, along with 6 rebounds and 2 steals.

After the cut-short ending to a spectacular season, the Thunderbirds will have to wait until next year for a shot at the Canada West championships.