The UNBC Timberwolves have a plan in store for the Manitoba Bisons.
It's going to take a pack mentality to be successful on this hunt.
The T-wolves know their U Sports men's basketball schedule after this weekend only gets tougher, with upper-echelon opponents UBC and Alberta waiting in the wings for UNBC to arrive later this month. That underscores the importance of taking advantage of a Manitoba team that's struggled to get into a winning groove.
"They are going to be coming full force at us - they like to push it in transition, so we will have to get back," said T-wolves rookie guard Chris Ross, in a team release. "I think we will need to go back at them. It is going to be an up-tempo game, for sure.
"Our team plays exceptionally well when we move the ball. As soon as we hit a three-pointer or two, everything seems to open up. We have a lot of athletic guards, and we have some quick bigs as well."
UNBC (7-5) is in a playoff position, ranked seventh in the 17-team Canada West conference. The T-wolves split last weekend at home against Thompson Rivers University, winning the first one 90-81, followed by a 82-78 loss to the WolfPack.
The Bisons have lost five straight and have just three wins in 12 games this season but nobody in T-wolves clothing will be taking them lightly when they meet tonight (8 p.m.) on the court at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
"We will be playing UBC and Alberta coming up - those are two really good teams, so it would be nice to get two wins," said Ross. "Then when we head into those games we aren't packing a lot of weight on our shoulders, trying to get these important wins. We can just play freely."
Jovan Leamy continues to lead UNBC, averaging 20.2 points per game, second in the conference. Vaggelis Loukas is also in the top five in two categories. His 60 per cent field goal average is second in the league and his 9.3 rebounds average is third-best. Sage Gosal ranks fifth with a 41.4 per cent success rate from three-point range.
The UNBC women (8-4) also sit seventh in the league. After a 6-0 start they ended a four-game losing streak last weekend with a two-game sweep of TRU.
Manitoba (5-7) started the season a perfect 5-0, including a split with UBC, but then had to take on the Canada West juggernauts - Regina, Calgary, and Alberta - all top-four teams, and the Bisons have lost seven straight.
"This weekend, we have to come out and make sure we are playing our parts," said T-wolves second-year guard Devon Wood. "We need to be aggressive and put 100 per cent effort in. Manitoba is going to really challenge us, so we are going to have to be prepared defensively. Hopefully we get stops and that pushes us forward to the offensive end.
"Hopefully this sets the tone for the rest of the season."
The game starts at 6 p.m.
Fifth-year UNBC post Vasiliki Louka continues to lead the conference, averaging 13.4 rebounds, and her 17.2 points-per-game average is eighth-best. Fourth-year guard Maria Mongomo is also putting up big numbers offensively. Her 20.7 point-per-game average ranks second in Canada West and she's averaging 8.5 rebounds, ninth-best. UNBC guard Emily Holmes is 10th in assists, with a 3.5 average.