The Timberwolves will be in for back-to-back tests on the hardwood.
The UNBC women's basketball team is in Alberta for games tonight and Saturday against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and the University of Calgary Dinos respectively. Both opponents are in the Prairie Division of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, the 3-3 Pronghorns in fourth place and the 6-0 Dinos at the top of the standings.
UNBC and Lethbridge saw each other during the pre-season and the Timberwolves won 77-56. But T-wolves head coach Loralyn Murdoch expects tonight's clash to bring a stiffer set of challenges than her team saw in that Oct. 21 victory.
"They didn't have all their players when we played them so that wasn't really indicative of how it will unfold [tonight]," she said. "They were missing four or five players."
Murdoch said hard work on defence will be crucial for the Timberwolves this time around.
"We have to play defence for 40 minutes," she said. "They have some big girls that are very talented and a guard who is very quick and very tenacious and so we have to find who will be the best match-ups with those girls and hopefully they do a good job."
The Pronghorns feature six-foot-one forward Lauren Tolley and six-foot-two forward Kimberley Veldman. Offensively, they have been led by third-year guard Ali Cameron, who is averaging 16.5 points per game.
Trying to beat the Dinos Saturday in Calgary will probably be even tougher for the T-wolves. In their six wins, the Dinos have piled up 452 points, second-most in all of Canada West. During pre-season play, Calgary handed UNBC an 88-52 loss.
"They're deep, they're good, they're athletic," Murdoch said. "They also have a veteran lineup, and it's in Calgary, and it's tough to play on the road."
The Timberwolves take a 3-3 record into the games. In the eight-team Pacific Division, they're in fifth place. Statistically, fourth-year guard/forward Mercedes Van Koughnett is leading them in several categories. Van Koughnett is 10th in Canada West scoring with an average of 16 points per game, second in rebounding with 11.3 boards per contest and is tied for eighth in assists with 3.2 per outing.
Murdoch won't be with her team this weekend because of a family matter. The Timberwolves will be coached by UNBC athletics director Jason Kerswill and assistant AD Kaz Ikuta.
The UNBC men's basketball team will also tip off tonight in Lethbridge and Saturday in Calgary. The male T-wolves (4-2) are in third place in the Pacific Division, while the 3-3 Pronghorns and 2-4 Dinos sit fifth and sixth respectively in the Prairie Division.
"We're going to be on the road so it's not going to be the same home support that we're used to," said fifth-year UNBC guard Joel Rybachuk. "But, we're going to play to the best of our ability and hopefully get a couple of wins.
"A lot of people thought that we wouldn't come out this strong but we knew that we could come out and compete at this level, no problem," added Rybachuk, referring to UNBC's impressive start as a new Canada West team. "We just want to keep it rolling. We can't take any games for granted."
Individually, fifth-year guard/forward Sam Raphael is leading the T-wolves in scoring with 18.2 points per game, a number that has him tied for seventh in Canada West. Fifth-year guard Francis Rowe is tied for 10th with 17.5 points per contest and is tied for first in the league in free-throw percentage. So far, he has gone 18-for-18 from the line.