Late UBC run sinks Spartans

Trinity Western men's basketball team comes close twice to knocking off second-ranked Thunderbirds

Trinity Western Spartans' Eli Mara drives to the hoop against the defence of UBC's Jared Casey at the Langley Events Centre.

Trinity Western Spartans' Eli Mara drives to the hoop against the defence of UBC's Jared Casey at the Langley Events Centre.

Up by a basket with 4:34 remaining, the Trinity Western Spartans could not hang on in pulling off the upset.

Instead, the visiting UBC Thunderbirds — ranked second in the country — went on a 16-2 run from which the Spartans could not recover in Canada West men’s basketball action.

The T-Birds wound up winning 77-66 on Saturday, one night after posting a 91-84 win over the Spartans. Both contests were at the Langley Events Centre.

“It was a lack of execution and turnovers down the stretch that killed us,” said Trinity Western coach Scott Allen.

“To beat a team as good as UBC, everything has to go right and that didn’t happen tonight.”

“On the positive side, we’re seeing some young guys come through and our team chemistry is starting to come together,” he added.

“We just need a little more focus in these close games down the stretch.”

The Spartans led 19-13 after one quarter but UBC had the lead down to two points by the half. The Thunderbirds pulled ahead 53-50 after three quarters and Trinity Western briefly led early in the fourth quarter before UBC went on the late run.

Denny McDonald (18 points) and Mark Perrin (16 points) led Trinity Western while Tristan Smith came off the bench to chip in 14 points.

A big difference in the game was the teams’ shooting percentages.

While UBC shot nearly 52 per cent from the field (28-for-54), Trinity Western struggled to hit 35 per cent (26-for-74). Free throw shooting also hurt the Spartans as they missed 10 of their 19 shots from the charity stripe.

Free throws were a big story on Friday night as well with UBC hitting 29 of their 41 shots. By comparison, the Spartans only went to the stripe 17 times, hitting on 14 of their chances.

Trinity Western had battled back from a 16-point deficit to take a lead in the third quarter, but UBC erupted for 30 points in the final frame to win by seven.

“It was a game of runs and a lot of catch-up for us,” Allen said.

“We fell short at the end, but it was a good effort from your guys and it’s early in the season, so we have lots of room for improvement.”

Perrin led the Spartans with 32 — including seven three-pointers — and nine rebounds while Tonner Jackson had 20 points and four steals.

Kurtins Osborne came off the bench to chip in 11 points and six rebounds.

One area the coach said needs improvement is turnovers as they committed 15 in the first half alone on Friday. After committing 10 more in the second half, they did shore things up on Saturday with just eight turnovers the entire game.

The Spartans are in Prince George this weekend for a pair of games with the UNBC Timberwolves.