Forgive me if I can't figure out this UFV Cascades team that's gone hot, cold, and every which way in between throughout the season. Close losses to playoff teams Saskatchewan and Victoria were wiped out by blowout losses to UBC, and a split on the road with then 3-7 Calgary last week was followed up this week with a split to the Alberta Pandas, who happen to lead the Canada West Conference.
They did it with balance and solid defense, holding the Pandas to 36% shooting, creating 22 turnovers to 10 assists, and creating 16 second chances off of rebounds. The team went just 2-for-14 from beyond the arc, an aspect of their game that has been prominently displayed (they're second in the conference in attempts and makes) this season. En route to their 69-63 Friday win they got a 15-point performance from Nicole Wierks, while sister Sarah pocketed 13 points and 12 boards, three steals. They made use of their attempts at the line and went 21-for-26 from the stripe, with a 6-for-6 night from Tessa Klassen and 4-4 from Alyssa Gaukel.
But as the team followed a Friday night win with a weekend split last week with Calgary, the same was to happen here. They lost the Saturday contest 7-58. UFV coach Al Tuchscherer said it very eloquently over his Twitter feed: "Alberta too much for the Cs tonight." The Pandas shot at 38%, better than Friday, but still well below their season average, but UFV couldn't capitalize on their misses, with rebounds being equal against Cascade glass 14-14. The Cascades continued to create turnovers, but they shot just 17-for-53 themselves from the field, and when you aren't rebounding well off your own glass, you probably aren't rebounding well at the other end of the floor. The final tally for boards was 38-20, with 7 coming from Alysia Rissling and 6 from Marisa Haylett. Nicole Clarke went 11-for-12 from the foul line and dropped a series-high 23.
UFV is one of the fun stories this year because they're a young team that has had such a quick and noticeable turnaround. They went 2-16 last year and finished last in the conference, but look to be poised to make the playoffs this year; not only that, but are even a threat to some top teams that they've played real close, or even beat. They host Regina this weekend and travel to Winnipeg the next, and, knowing that this team can come alive at any time, if either of those teams play back on their heels for just a quarter and don't attack the perimeter as the Pandas did, we could see an upset in either of those games. Just one win in their next four games would be huge for their confidence as they finish their regular season schedule on a relatively easy note playing Lethbridge and Brandon.
The Winnipeg Wesmen took a bite out of the Victoria Vikes with a sweep in 86-65 and 62-53 games. The Vikes have now won just three out of their last seven games and drop to 6th in the conference. Winnipeg improves to 12-2.
At War Memorial Gym, the UBC Thunderbirds, as expected, put the Calgary Dinos away twice and helped out the rest of the bubble teams. UBC go to 11-5 and passed Vic in the standings.
Speaking of bubble teams. the TRU WolfPack fell two straight to the Regina Cougars with 78-56 and 69-55 losses. Now at 7-9, TRU are clinging to a playoff spot and have a huge series at home to Calgary two weekends from now.
The Saskatchewan Huskies played the Manitoba Bisons to similarly-scored games, 82-67 and 82-68. They're at 12-2 and hit the 10-straight win marker. Manitoba are at 3-11 and may have been dealt the final nail for their playoff coffin, now four games back with ten to play.
The Lethbridge Pronghorns and Brandon Bobcats, of course, being the bottom two teams in the conference, one of them had to win each of their two games this weekend, and, well, Lethbridge won both convincingly, 61-48 and 72-50. Brandon drops to 0-14 and still search for their first win. While they're in no shape to make the playoffs, you hate to watch any team at the university level go 0-for-the-season.