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Third quarter surge leads Wesmen over Timberwolves

The Timberwolves hit the road next week for a two-game set against Mount Royal in Calgary

The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves battled against one of the top teams in Canada West but fell 94-72 on Saturday afternoon in men’s basketball action at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.

It was a spirited effort from the home side who are navigating a difficult portion of their schedule, taking on the top three conference teams in three consecutive weekends. A strong second quarter allowed the Timberwolves to stay close to the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, but the visitors pulled away in the second half to secure the win.

“I think we wore out a little bit mentally and physically,” Timberwolves forward Fareed Shittu said after his team fell to 5-9 on the year. “They just started making their shots and getting into our paint.”

The Timberwolves looked to be making a run early in the third quarter. Down five, the home side was set to inbound with only four seconds left on the shot clock. Micah Jesse took the pass with a defender draped all over him. Unable to get to the basket, he stepped back to the USPORTS logo and launched a buzzer-beating three. He made it, the Timberwolves got a quick turnover and a Shittu layup tied the game at 46.

The Timberwolves were unable to parlay the momentum into a lead, as Winnipeg responded shortly after with a 14-point run, their largest of the game, and never looked back.

“This win helps with team confidence,” said Alberto Gordo, who scored 16 as Winnipeg improved to 11-3 on the year. “We like it whenever we make the other team feel like we’re going over them like water over a waterfall. We’re just happy we can get the job done.”

The Timberwolves battled to try to cut the deficit, with Shittu getting the crowd on its feet with a block at one end and collecting his own rebound at the other. It was Shittu’s first miss from the field after making his first nine shots, two of them from long range.

Shittu finished with games highs in points with 27 and rebounds with 11. Darren Hunter added 12 for UNBC and Jesse scored 11.

“I came with high energy and high-intensity today after the loss yesterday,” Shittu said. “Today I wanted to come out and give that extra one per cent and give energy to our team.”

Winnipeg’s offence was buoyed by efficient three-point shooting – 10 for 24 as a team – and taking advantage of points off turnovers. Mikhail Mikhailov scored 25, Gordo potted 16 and Shawn Maranan added 12.

“I think I got aggressive looks at the basket, I just needed to get to my spot and produce from there,” Gordo said. “Even if you don’t have the shot, you have a teammate to pass to. It’s a team game, so trying to find the best shot for the team and try to find the open man.”

The first quarter saw five lead changes as the teams traded mini-runs. The Wesmen held a 19-16 lead after 10, but back-to-back three-pointers from Chris Ross and Fareed Shittu gave the Timberwolves a 22-19 advantage early in the second quarter.

It set the tone for the quarter as the Timberwolves hit a couple more threes in the quarter and found more success in the paint as well as they kept pace with the Wesmen basket for basket. The visitors took a slim 40-38 lead into the break.

The Timberwolves celebrated Pride Day, sponsored by CUPE Local 3799. The NSC was festooned with the Progress Pride flag, the team wore their rainbow warm-up shirts and the Northern Pride Centre hosted junior drag performances at half-time.

“I think it’s a pretty special day,” Shittu said. “My people have fought for a lot so I can respect what they had to go through just to gain simple respect.”

The Timberwolves hit the road next week for a two-game set against Mount Royal in Calgary. Their next home games are on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 against B.C. interior rivals Thompson Rivers.

The Wesmen take on the University of the Fraser Valley next week in Winnipeg.


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