We return from the winter break with a new number one team in the nation, and they are from the Canada West Conference. The Saskatchewan Huskies held the still winless Brandon Bobcats to just 69 points over the course of the weekend, with an 82-36 win on Friday and a 79-33 win on Saturday. Friday night, despite playing just 19 minutes, Kim Tulloch scored a game-high 19 points in the Friday affair, while the attack was more balanced Saturday, with four players in double figures: Jill Humbert (10) Tulloch (15) Marci Kiselyk (12) and Jana Spindler (11).
Hopefully the number one ranking is enough to keep the Huskies away from complacency. They improve to 10-2, have won eight straight and are in the middle of the weakest stretch in their schedule until they hit Alberta on February 4th and 5th and have a home-and-home with Regina on February 10th and 12th.
While Saskatchewan was the top-team according to rankings, the Victoria Vikes were the strongest team according to RPI going into the break, and they played themselves to a home sweep over the now 1-15 Trinity West Spartans. Trinity kept the score very close in the Saturday contest, with Emily Knauff pacing the Spartans with a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds and it finished 61-57 with the 4th quarter going 18-15 in favour of the Vikes. Despite being outshot 57-53, being outrebounded 45-25, faced 7 blocks (four from Corina Reimer) and shooting just 50% at the line, Victoria found a way to win, earning 18 points and 14 rebounds (nine defensive) from Sarah Semeniuk, while Vanessa Forstbauer had 7 points and 3 assists. Former CIS MVP and Canada West leading scorer Kayla Dykstra was noticeably absent from the lineup this weekend.
The Friday game had its moments as well. Victoria outscored Trinity 20-9 in the first quarter but Trinity pulled its deficit to just a point by halftime. Victoria, led by Jessica Renfrew's 25 points, Debbie Yeboah's 10 point-6 rebound-6 assist statline and Forstbauer's 10 rebounds, outscored the Spartans 40-27 in the second half enroute to a 71-57 win. Despite winning both games, the Vikes dropped from #4 to #8 in the national rankings.
The surprising Winnipeg Wesmen won a pair of close games on the road at the Thompson Rivers WolfPack this weekend, with games played despite classes not having started for winter semester at TRU. The conference's second-ranked defense stifled the strong TRU offense and the Wesmen swept the WolfPack with 66-61 and 65-58 victories. Caitlin Gooch continued her strong scoring season with a 25-point performance Friday, but was held out of the lineup Saturday, leaving Teresa Grant to pace the Wesmen with 16 points. Alex Maciver had 10 rebounds, while Mackenzie Prasek had 6 assists, 3 assists and 4 steals as the team rallied despite the Gooch's absense.
Despite a 10-2 record and having a stronger RPI ranking than Regina, Winnipeg continues to be overlooked in national rankings, but that will change if they can manage a .500 record in their next six games: They play Victoria and Regina at home before traveling to Alberta the next week. Meanwhile, TRU have lost four straight and find themselves at 7-7 as they continue through the tougher part of their schedule. They travel to Regina and Saskatchewan in the next two weeks and will have to hang on as they attempt to secure the university's first ever basketball playoff berth
The Alberta Pandas swept the Lethbridge Pronghorns on the weekend with 73-56 and 90-42 point victories, climbed to number seven in the national rankings, and take the top spot in the Canada West Conference. Sally Hillier went 4-6 from three-point land on Friday and finished with 14 points. On Saturday, former Kitsilano Blue Demon Marisa Haylett scored the weekend-high 21 points and had 5 steals. Katie Arbuthnot had 7 assists Saturday and 4 Friday, leading the Pandas to an astonishing 41 over the course of the weekend.
The Pandas are now 12-2 and have won 9-of-10. This is a team that has picked up at least one win every weekend, which bodes well if they look to earn splits against Winnipeg and Saskatchewan later this season. Meanwhile, it's rapidly becoming a season to forget in Lethbridge, with the 11th-ranked offense and 12th-ranked defense having gone 2-12 and haven't won a game since late October. Their games with last-place Brandon this weekend could be interesting as both teams look to end devastating losing streaks.
The UBC Thunderbirds also had a sweep this weekend to keep pace, this one over the Manitoba Bisons 73-37 Friday and a closer 66-55 Saturday. Devan Lisson had a 7-rebound, 4-assist, 16-point performance Saturday for UBC while Alex Vieweg had a weekend-high 17-point game that same night. The T-Birds are now 9-5 and have a chance to even the gap between them and the top teams with their next four games coming against Calgary and Brandon.
Finally, the Calgary Dinos managed a home split over the UFV Cascades this weeked to stop their 3-game losing streak. Unfortunately, the games were 76-60 Friday for UFV and 77-60 Saturday for Calgary, so we lacked a fourth period with any sort of drama or game-winning shots. Ashley Hill ran the Dinos offense with a weekend-high 25 Saturday, while Tessa Klassen scored 17 Friday. Sarah Wierks had a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double performance Saturday for the still-.500 Cascades Saturday as they saw their five-game winning streak snapped. It doesn't get easier for the playoff hopeful UFV team, facing Alberta, Regina and Winnipeg in the next three weeks.