The UNB women’s basketball team won their AUS quarter-final matchup against the UPEI Panthers 76-65 and has moved on to the semi-finals where they will face the number one ranked Saint Mary’s Huskies.
It was looking like the V-Reds would be in tough against a much smaller UPEI squad as they trailed at the end of the first and took a small 34-32 lead into the half.
UNB however, took advantage of their size in the third quarter and began to feed the ball inside for easy baskets and free throw attempts. They took an eight-point lead into the fourth and were able to stretch it out to 15 after a series of defensive stops including two blocks from V-Reds forward Katelyn Mangold.
“RELAX” was the sentiment echoed over and over again by UNB head coach Jeff Speedy, as his team tried to hold on to their 15 point lead in the fourth quarter.
The lead was cut to as low as seven late in the fourth quarter as the V-Reds committed several bad turnovers in a row to let the Panthers back into it.
“Too many times we let them play to their strengths, that’s why the game stayed relatively close,” said coach Speedy.
Fifteen points however, turned out to be too much for UPEI to overcome and UNB held on for the double-digit victory.
Grace Wade and Rachel Cleary both had 15 points for the V-Reds while Mangold collected 12 rebounds for UNB. Kiera Rigby was the scoring leader for the Panthers. She had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Although UNB is already guaranteed a spot in the CIS Final 8 as they are hosting the tournament, they are taking the opportunity to earn some AUS hardware very seriously.
“We’re not even thinking about CIS, we’re here to win an AUS championship,” said coach Speedy when it was mentioned that UNB could potentially be facing SMU at the CIS tournament.
The Huskies, who finished the season eight points clear of second place Acadia, are currently ranked third in the country and have won the AUS championship three years in a row.
“We’ve got our hands full, but I’m glad we’re playing,” said Speedy. “We’re the only team that’s beaten [SMU] so there’s some belief in our group that we can do it again.”
It was back in November that UNB gave SMU their only blemish of the season with a 54-51 win at the Currie Center.
Although UNB was able to use their size to dominate the glass and points in the paint versus the Panthers, they matchup more closely, size-wise against the top ranked Huskies.
SMU earned a bye in the quarterfinals of the tournament based on their number one seeding and will have the advantage of having played one less game than their Maritime rivals.
“They play our style a little bit more [than UPEI],” said Speedy on how his team will matchup against SMU when they take them on tomorrow, Saturday, March 5 at 1 p.m. Catch all the coverage at austv.ca or on Bell TV1.