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T-Birds Focus On Final 8

Photo Credit UBC Thunderbirds -Stu Walters

With Basketball being on the forefront of sports given March Madness, it was only important that we reached out to the UBC Thunderbirds to see how their program is wrapping up.

I received this from Stu Walters (UBC Communications) of the T-Birds, so enjoy the read and if you get a chance tune in to watch the live stream of the games.

After capturing the program’s 10th all-time Canada West title last weekend in Edmonton the UBC Thunderbirds are heading further east in search of another banner at this week’s 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 basketball Championships in Ottawa.

The men’s tournament, hosted jointly for the first time with the women’s championship, by the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Carleton Ravens, and the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group, tips off on Friday and concludes Sunday with the gold medal game at 5 p.m. PT. / 8 p.m. ET

All championship bracket games (quarterfinals, semifinals, medal games) from both the men’s and women’s tournaments will be played at The Arena at TD Place, while the consolation brackets are played at the Ravens Nest on the campus of Carleton University.

The ‘Birds enter the tournament as the nation’s number three seed and open quarterfinal final play against the RESQ champion and number sixth ranked Bishop’s Gaiters this Friday March, 6 at TD Place with a 3 p.m. PT / 6 p.m. ET tip off.

Photo Credit UBC Communications
Stu Walters

The T-Birds are looking for a third U SPORTS championship in the program’s history and first since 1972. 

Joining the UBC and Bishop’s at the dance are six other hungry teams including the OUA Champions and No. 1 Carleton Ravens who’ve been so dominant over the years winning 14 U SPORTS banners since 2002-2003. 

Rounding out the other five entrants includes the AUS champions and No. 2 Dalhousie Tigers, the No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears, No. 5 Western Mustangs, No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees and finally the No.8 Calgary Dinos who earned the final at-large berth.

The ‘Birds enjoyed another season near the top of the standings with a 16-4 record, good for third place after the conference regular season on the strength of a familiar up-tempo offense that saw them lead the conference in scoring an average of 93.5 points per game. 

That places them second overall in all of U SPORTS behind the juggernaut Ravens who set the nation’s pace with an average of 97.8 points scored per game. 

UBC was also a force on the glass in collecting an average of 44.2 rebounds per game, good for sixth best in the country.

Standout members of the blue and gold included fifth-year guard Jadon Cohee and third-year forward Grant Shephard who were both named Canada West all-stars. 

Cohee received a first-team all-star nod for a second consecutive year after leading the team in scoring and ranking sixth overall in the conference averaging 19.1 points per game while involving his teammates to the tune of 5.7 assists per game good for second in the Canada West. 

Shephard earned third-team status after averaging the second most points per game among T-Birds with 14.2 while adding an average of 7.3 rebounds per game to lead the team and place 13th overall in the CW.

Rounding out the ‘Birds balanced attack includes fifth year shooting guard Manroop Clair who’s always a threat from long range and was the team’s third leading scorer averaging 14.2 points per game. 

Third-year guard/forward Grant Audu’s overall game took another step this season, improving his shooting percentage en route to averaging the fourth most points per game for UBC at 13.6.  

UBC enters the national tournament seemingly peaking at the right time having won eight straight games down the backstretch of the season which included three consecutive playoff wins on the road. 

The T-Birds showed character, grit and a renewed commitment on the defensive end in getting past the Saskatchewan Huskies 88—77 in last month’s 

Canada West quarterfinal before topping the Calgary Dinos 81-72 the next evening in the semi-final. 

The formula remained the same in last Saturday’s 72-70 CW championship victory over Alberta, proving UBC had the versatility and commitment to win the low scoring playoff battle.

It was head coach Kevin Hanson‘s sixth conference title in his 20th season in charge at UBC and a nice way to cap off a milestone campaign that also saw him earn career victory number 314 on January, 14, 2020 to become the all-time winningest coach in Canada West history.

“I think it comes down to the defensive energy and the guys believing in themselves,” said Hanson, reflecting on what has allowed his squad to surge when it matters most. “It’s a long season and we’ve traveled a lot and I just think it took us a while to find out who we were and what kind of style we were going to play. 

For one of my teams this time of year we’ve struggled a little bit on the defensive side and it’s been an emphasis of ours and the guys have really bought into what we’re asking of them and it’s been exciting to see the growth of the team over the last six or seven months.”

The T-Birds open proceedings meeting the Bishop’s Gaiters, who finished the RSEQ regular season with an 8-8 record before wins of 78-71 over Concordia University and a championship victory that saw them edge Universite du Quebec a Montreal 73-72. 

The Gaiters enter the tournament with the 27th ranked offence in the nation, scoring an average of 79.9 points per game while they sit 26th overall in team defence giving up an average of 81.5 points per game.

“We’re trying to get our guys focused on meeting Bishop’s in the first game,” continued Hanson. “Because if you don’t win that one nothing else matters so it’s really about getting after it. We don’t know a lot about Bishop’s but we do know they won the Quebec league and a lot of their players in that conference come out of the Cegep school program so some of them are 20 or 21 year old freshmen so generally they’re a little bit older than a lot of other teams and a lot of our guys. We expect them to have good experience and we’re in for a great game, we’re in a zone so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing as we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now.”

The final 8 festivities tip off March 4th with game action starting Friday, March 6 from TD Place.

To catch all the action live streaming is available for free worldwide on CBCSports.ca

CBC Gem, the CBC Sports App for iOS and Android devices, with French digital coverage carried on USPORTS.LIVE.

UBC Thunderbirds Basketball,    UBC Department of Athletics