The UBC Thunderbirds picked up a signature victory against one of college basketball’s most storied basketball teams.
Behind a raucous crowd of over 2100 fans at War Memorial Gymnasium, the Thunderbirds defeated the visiting UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 79-72 to pick up their first win of the 2022-23 season and eighth victory over an NCAA division I team.
Hampered by travel delays that have caused major chaos across the United States, the Runnin’ Rebels early Monday morning flight was delayed and eventually cancelled. UNLV landed in Vancouver at approximately 2:30 p.m local pacific time, six hours prior to Tuesdays 7:00 pm tip-off.
By the time the entire team cleared customs, health and safety protocols, checked-in and settled into their hotel rooms, UNLV had roughly one hour to prepare for the game.
Surrey, British Columbia duo of James Woods and Sukhman Sandhu combined to score 56 points and connect on ten of the Thunderbirds eleven three-pointers.
Woods, a six-foot-one transfer guard, lit-up the Runnin’ Rebels with a series of floaters and deep three-pointers for a game-high 33 points on 9-of-22 shot attempts, including a red-hot 6-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Sandhu, a six-foot-ten stretch forward, was equally impressive and caused all sorts of problems for UNLV’s front line with a big double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds on 4-of-10 triples.
Jamesley Jerome (Montreal, Que.) provide some much need athleticism and rounded-out the double-digit scorers with 10 points, six rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting. Jack Cruz-Dumont (Richmond, B.C) chipped in with 7 points and six rebounds.
The Runnin’ Rebels came out strong, jumped out to an eight point lead, culminating to a 28-23 advantage as the horn sounded in the opening ten-minute quarter.
Four straight UBC triples, (two from Woods and Sandhu) combined with strong one and done defensive possessions, helped UBC establish control of the game. A 12-2 second-quarter run pushed the Thunderbirds ahead at 35-30. UBC outscored UNLV 19-12 in the quarter and took a 42-40 half-time lead as Sandu knocked down his three-triple of the period.
The three-point onslaught continued in the second-half. Woods found himself open for back-to-back triples to extend UBC’s advantage to eight points and help maintain a two-point edge at 62-60 heading into the final ten minutes.
Looking to secure their first win over a NCAA division I team since 2011, the Thunderbirds held UNLV scoreless for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. A sixth made three-pointer by Woods pushed the Thunderbirds advantage to a game-high nine points at 69-60 before UBC iced the game at the foul line.
“That was awesome man, we have been waiting for this all summer, so it was a great experience for everyone. We have been working for this since May, we knew it was coming, we knew we had to play physical and things like that. It was intensity from the jump” an elated Woods discussed following the game.
UNLV sophomore guard Jackie Johnson III racked up a team-high 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Six-foot-three senior guard Justin Webster finished with 12 points, three rebounds, and Luis Rodriguez contributed 11 points and four rebounds.
Speaking to Runnin’ Rebels radio crew, head coach Kevin Kruger commented on his team effort, “awesome environment, they were after it, this crowd was incredible, and they came out and played really hard, we came out and had some good effective plays early. They battled, they took the lead and never gave it back.”
“We didn’t deserve to win it, they played well, they played better and we just gotta regroup and get ready to get after it tomorrow, because it doesn’t get any easier.” concluded the second-year coach.
The Runnin’ Rebels will play the second game of their three-game 2022 Vancouver tour versus the Calgary Dinos and will conclude the trip versus the University of Fraser Valley (UFV).
The Dinos are coming off a winless five game trip to Costa Rica, where they suffered losses against three NCAA division teams. Twice to Colorado State (92-65, 71-59), once to Pepperdine (82-79) and two times against UNC Charlotte (67-62, 77-75).
UBC won three of their eight wins over NCAA competition division I teams in 2004 when it knocked-off Hampton, Kansas State and Georgia. Veteran UBC head coach Kevin Hanson has also earned wins over Cal State Northridge (2005), Boise State (2007), Cal State Fullerton (2008) and Santa Clara in 2011.