EDMONTON — Three-point shooting can be streaky and, thankfully for the No.7 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears, they got hot at the time they needed it most against the No.4 ranked University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Freshman shooting guards Brandon Meiklejohn and Adam Paige combined to hit three treys in the fourth quarter to help propel the Golden Bears to an 85-75 victory over UBC, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Brody Clarke led Alberta with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Paige scored 10 points and eight rebounds.
Fourth-year guard Jadon Cohee led UBC with 20 points, while sophomore power forward Grant Shephard had 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
The Bears victory snapped UBC’s 16-game winning streak and improved Alberta’s record to 14-5, UBC losing their first game since Oct.27 and falling to 17-2 in the conference standings.
“We recruited Adam Paige knowing he could shoot the ball,” said Golden Bears head coach Barnaby Craddock. “That’s the epitome of his game. He’s a big guard who can knock down big shots and that was a big shot from him tonight.”
“We made some threes late. In general, we shoot from the perimeter pretty decently and the law of averages says some of those will start to go in and they did. We hit some late that really helped us win the game.”
Alberta led 20-18 after the first quarter and then UBC put together a solid second quarter to take a 38-34 lead at the half.
It was a classic back-and-forth battle between two nationally-ranked schools and, with Alberta looking to hit some big shots in the second half, they came off the hands of two freshmen.
Meiklejohn hit a late trey and he followed it up with another one early in the fourth quarter to give Alberta a 65-62 lead.
With Alberta holding a 74-71 lead with just over two minutes left, Paige took an inbound pass and nailed the three-pointer with just one second left on the shot clock. His 11th three-pointer of the season gave Alberta a 77-71 lead and they didn’t look back.
“We need some of those guys to step up and take on a role and tonight they did. This is going to serve them well the rest of their career to have those guys on the floor during that big stretch,” said Craddock.
“It was nice to see the confidence to make those shots and a lot of them from freshmen in a big game involving two nationally-ranked teams. That’s impressive for those first-year guys.”
UBC battled until the final whistle with Alberta and they struggled to have an answer for the Golden Bears hot shooting in the fourth quarter.
“They got hot in the second half, hitting a lot of threes, and we couldn’t hit anything and we got tired,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson.
“It was a real physical game…the most physical all year. We’re going to have to adjust a few things and come back better tomorrow night.”
The victory over UBC at home is a big confidence-builder for Alberta who had been 2-2 in their last four games and looking to heat up with the playoffs approaching. Beating UBC who hadn’t lost in over three months will go a long way.
“We were lucky to pull away and get some breathing room. We know they’ll be ready to battle tomorrow night,” said Craddock.
“They missed some open shots tonight and that was a big factor, but we’re going to have to be even better defensively tomorrow night.”
Alberta and UBC will wrap up their two-game weekend series Saturday night at 7 p.m.