A flu bug knocked their best all-around player out of the game. With veteran swingman Sam Raphael on the sidelines, the UNBC Timberwolves couldnt keep pace with the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades.
Saturday night in Abbotsford, the Cascades defeated the Timberwolves 88-70 in Canada West mens basketball. Raphael, a fifth-year guard/forward, did his best to contribute to the UNBC cause but was only able to play for eight minutes of the first half.
He didnt have much energy and we just decided it wasnt worth pushing him through that, said UNBC coach Todd Jordan. He was dehydrated and stuff and wasnt giving us more than the other guys so Sam and I discussed it and we decided it was best to shut him down. Its tough when he cant play, but we had a number of issues.
The first quarter hurt the Timberwolves the most. They were victimized by the Cascades in the early stages and were down 30-18 after 10 minutes.
Early on, we let them get into the paint too much and kick [the ball back out for shots], Jordan said. They got too many open looks, and theyre a very good-shooting team. They were in the Final Four of the CIS last year so they can put five guys out on the floor that can all score the ball.
The biggest thing was, we werent able to consistently put together strings of stops, Jordan added. We just didnt have the energy that we need to have to be successful.
Jordan said it was more a case of mental fatigue than physical.
Because were undersized, we have to be so mentally sharp to battle against some of these athletic CIS-level teams, he said. If were not 100 per cent engaged and going, its a tall task for us some nights.
The Cascades were up 49-36 at the half and 74-57 after three quarters.
Fifth-year guard Sam Freeman led the Cascades with 28 points, while fourth-year forward Charles Barton finished with 20 for UNBC. Barton, who has been playing some of his best basketball in the past couple weeks, also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds - all in the defensive end - and dished out three assists.
He has kind of hit his stride, Jordan said. Weve been able to put him in a few isolation situations and hes been shooting the ball really well. Hes making three-point jump shots and its definitely positive to see that from him, especially knowing that hes going to be back next year and will be with us moving forward.
The Cascades, third in the Pacific Division, now have a 9-7 record. The Timberwolves, losers of six in a row, sit at 5-11 and find themselves in sixth place.
UNBC, in its first year of Canada West competition, is slipping out of playoff contention because only the top four teams will qualify for the post-season. Right now, the T-wolves are four points behind the fourth-place Trinity Western University Spartans and will be hard-pressed to make up ground because four of their remaining six games are against the University of Victoria Vikes and the UBC Thunderbirds, the second- and first-place teams in the division.
Of the teams that are in the fight for that fourth playoff spot, we definitely have the toughest schedule but theres a reason we play the games, Jordan said.
Theres nothing we can do now but go out and battle and hope for the best. But its just about process for us right now, really.
The Timberwolves will take on the Vikes (11-5) Friday and Saturday in Victoria.