EDMONTON — The University of Alberta Pandas may have something cooking. One week after getting their 12-game win streak snapped by the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Pandas responded with a big 84-73 win over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Third-year guard Vanessa Wild led Alberta with 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while third-year power forward Mackenzie Cook set a career-high with 15 points and five rebounds.
Third-year power forward Keylyn Filewich led UBC with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Alberta improves to 15-4, while UBC drops to 13-6 in the Canada West conference standings.
Playing without arguably their strongest rebounder in third-year power forward Brooklyn Legault for the second-straight week, the Pandas made a statement without the veteran presence, dominating the glass in the win over UBC.
“We’re really undersized compared to them,” said Pandas head coach Scott Edwards. “Keylyn (Filewich) is such a tremendous post player and I really have to commend our post players tonight. We really rebounded well as a group. Everyone stepped up.”
The Pandas got hot early, jumping out to a 16-4 lead, but UBC found their footing and were able to battle back midway through the second quarter, thanks in large part to the play in the paint from Filewich.
Yet Alberta switched it up and started to take over the game in the paint. Cook, Wild, and third-year guard Lauren Earl were a dynamic force in the paint for the Pandas. Earl only scored one point, but she led the Pandas with 12 rebounds, and all but two Pandas recorded a rebound.
They out-rebounded UBC 40-35 overall in the game, but absolutely dominated the T-Birds 20-9 in the offensive boards category.
“It all came down to offensive rebounding,” said UBC head coach Deb Huband. “They were getting the ball back and hitting three; when we found a way to claw back and get on a run, they were doing a real good job on the defensive boards. They really outworked us tonight and they earned the win.”
The Pandas used a strong balanced attack in the win against UBC. All five starters scored in double digits, and having a veteran like Cook step up in the absence of Legault was crucial. The former Harry Ainlay Titan hit some timely buckets and always found a way to make her presence felt in the low post.
“We haven’t seen Mac score like that, but she’s having a great year,” said Edwards. “I thought she played so even-keeled the whole game. She finished around the rim, she made her free throws, and really gave us a lot of energy tonight.”
UBC has a potent attack, but the Pandas virtually took away the perimeter and forced the T-Birds to score down low, putting more pressure on Filewich.
Alberta held UBC to just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc, while the Pandas hit seven three-pointers.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter today, and when you don’t have a balanced attack, you’re pretty easy to guard,” said Huband.
After two tough losses against the Huskies last weekend, Edwards was pleased with how his team responded.
“We had a nice balanced attack,” said Edwards. “We penetrated well and got some real good inside play from Mackenzie and then we hit and knocked down threes early and late to put the game away.”
Alberta and UBC will play their second game of their weekend series Saturday night at 5 p.m.