Bolstered by a sweep of their mainland rivals, the UBC Thunderbirds, this past weekend on Jan. 29-30, the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team have a bit of rhythm heading into a tough road matchup to the CIS No. 3 ranked Regina Cougars on Feb. 5-6. The Vikes are 7-9 and fifth place in the Canada West Pioneer Division, while the Cougars are among the conference’s best at third place (13-1).
The Vikes needed every second on the clock to dispatch the T-Birds, 72-71, on on Jan. 29 when fourth year Nicole Karstein‘s buzzer-beating rebound shot ended up being the game winner. A night later, the Vikes put together a strong team performance to complete the sweep with a 69-57 victory. Veterans Karstein and fourth year Jenna Bugiardini led the way for the Vikes again on Jan. 30 with Karstein adding 20 points and nine rebounds while Bugiardini had the game’s only double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s important for us to keep momentum from this past weekend and play well down the stretch in our last few games before playoffs,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair about their remaining four regular season games. “We have to maintain our focus because if you don’t come prepared to play against a team like Regina you could be in for a rough night.”
On the other side, the Cougars made quick work of the Manitoba Bisons to earn their sixth sweep of the season and stretch their winning streak to eight games. Regina outscored the Bisons 32-8 in the second half of their 87-42 win on Jan. 30 with five different players scoring in the double digits.
In the paint, the Cougars are second in the CIS with a field goal percentage of 43.9 per cent and average 76 points-per-game. The Cougars are formidable on defence as well, sitting first in the CIS in defensive rebounds-per-game.
Regina’s success this season is in large part thanks to a veteran core that includes fifth years Kehlsie Crone, Alyssia Kajati and Charlotte Kot. Kot has been a force for the Cougars this season by shooting 52.1 per cent from the field with 126 rebounds. Crone is one of the CIS’ best from three-point range with a conversion rate of 52.1 per cent at 25-for-48.
The Vikes have received production from all parts of their line-up over their past two games, including large contributions from veteran players like Bugiardini, Karstein and second year Amira Giannattasio. Karstein and Bugiardini will be called upon under the hoop to clear the boards and create more opportunities for the Vikes, while limiting Regina’s second chances.
“(Regina) are number three in the country for a reason,” added Sinclair of her team’s opponents. “They are a big, veteran team that can shoot and they are strong in their transition game. One of the big reasons they are so good at transitioning is because they are strong on the glass, so the rebound battle will be a big deciding factor.”
Game time in Regina is set for 4:00 p.m. PST on Feb. 5-6 at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport. Both games can be streamed live with stats via pay-per-view at uvic.canadawest.tv. Free live stats are available at canadawest.org.