Both Brandon University Bobcats basketball teams start their second halves this weekend, trying to build off 2-8 first-semester records that marked a bitter disappointment for one squad and the biggest sign of progress in years for the other.
The Thompson Rivers WolfPack visit the Healthy Living Centre on Friday, with the UBC Okanagan Heat coming to Brandon on Saturday.
The BU women’s basketball team earned its first two Canada West conference wins since 2010 in the first half, ending a 73-game losing streak that predated the arrival of head coach Novell Thomas and all of his players. Thomas believes his charges still have more to give, but rather than worrying about the win total his team is capable of, he said he’s more concerned with the process it will take to get there.
"The theme for us has just been competing game-by-game," said Thomas, who is in his second year with the program. "Not to sound cliché, but just (by focusing on) every possession, where if we compete and we’re concentrating on what we have to do, I think we can be in games. And that’s what it’s all about, just being in a position to win games."
Led by Cassie Cooke, the leading scorer in Canadian Interuniversity Sport at 28.2 points per game, the Bobcats had four starters who averaged at least 34.5 minutes per game in the first half. Thomas would like to spread that playing time around a bit more in the coming months, but it’s not something he’ll force.
"The plan is to go deeper, especially when you have weekend games and you’re going Friday, Saturday, so if you can have a more balanced attack and get more players in, it helps your case come Saturday night," Thomas said. "But if players aren’t demonstrating early in the game that they’re ready to play and think and compete, then we just can’t use them."
The TRU men’s and women’s teams both bring 6-4 records to Brandon, with both UBCO squads having gone 2-8 in the first half. Success this weekend would go a long way towards helping the Bobcats work their way up the Canada West standings.
The BU men’s team entered the season with the hope of earning its first playoff berth in five years, but will now have to make up a three-game deficit on the Calgary Dinos and four-game deficit on the Winnipeg Wesmen to get in. Head coach Gil Cheung said right now he’s looking for the consistency that was missing in a tough first-half schedule.
"We struggled at times, we looked real good at times, but at the end of the day we’re 2-8 and we’re looking to get off to a good start in the second semester," he said.
Cheung said no one on the team expected to be 2-8 in the first semester, but he believes the break and a consolation title at the Wesmen Invitational tournament in Winnipeg, where the Bobcats beat a pair of North Dakota teams at the end of December, will do the players a world of good.
"I think it was good for everyone to get home, visit with family and friends," Cheung said. "They came back, they’re recharged and you can see the little tinkering we did on both ends worked out pretty well over the holidays, and … it will be interesting to see how it looks against Canada West competition."
The women’s game starts at 6 p.m. Friday at the HLC, with the men following at 8 p.m. On Saturday, the women play at 5 p.m., with the men’s game set for 7 p.m.
HEADING WEST: The BU volleyball teams leave today for Kamloops, B.C., where they will take on the WolfPack on Friday and Saturday.
The Bobcat women are ranked fourth in CIS and have a 9-3 record that puts them in third place in Canada West, while TRU is last in the conference at 0-12.
The BU men are ranked fifth in CIS and share fifth place in Canada West at 7-5, while the WolfPack is tied for third in the conference at 8-4, but is unranked nationally.