Vikes ready to ball

The Vikes men’s basketball team is riding into the regular season with plenty of momentum after a strong preseason showing, highlighted by an undefeated run in the UBC Tournament.

UVic’s play went a long way in justifying the high hopes the community has for the team after their impressive finish as one of the final eight teams in the country last season. The 2013-14 squad opened up the preseason with five wins in a row, outscoring their opponents by an average of over 13 points.

While their final two preseason games ended in defeat, the first to the powerhouse Carleton Ravens before a close loss to the Warner Pacific Knights, the travel-laden seven-game stretch served as a strong preview for what to expect in the opening weekend and beyond. Furthermore, it highlighted the two players at opposite ends of their collegiate careers who look to be the driving forces behind the Vikes this season: senior Terrell Evans and freshman Marcus Tibbs.

UVic’s first action took place in the UBC Tournament from Oct. 10–12. The Vikes thrived on hot starts to establish control, leading after the first quarter in all three games. This allowed UVic to manage the games at their own pace, and add to their point total off turnovers as their opponents made mistakes struggling to catch up.

Unsurprising to many, all three Vikes wins were led by Terrell Evans, who, in his final season, continues to add to his impressive resumé as one of the top UVic basketball players of all time. Evans put up a game high 20 points in the opening 79-67 win over the Concordia Stingers of Montreal, before exploding for 37 the next night against the Portland-based Concordia Cavaliers. Evans capped the tournament off by setting the points standard a third time, scoring 20 as the Vikes ran over the Laurier Golden Hawks 91-72.

The unbeaten mark, good for tops in the tournament, sent UVic in high spirits to Ottawa for the Carleton House-Laughton Tournament. Their run continued during the first two days, blowing out the Bishop’s Gaiters 80-58 before emerging on top in a tight contest with the Lakehead Thunderwolves 68-60. Evans ran his game high points streak to five games, scoring 19 and 28 in the respective wins.

The Vikes were unable to get revenge for last year’s nationals exit in their tournament finale against Carleton however, as a trademark quick start by the defending CIS champions was more than enough to see them cruise to an 82-62 victory. The game did see the establishment of Marcus Tibbs as a legitimate point guard at the elite level, as he finished with team highs in points and assists, along with a game high for steals.

The coming-out performance capped what had been an already strong preseason run for Seattle native Tibbs, who joins UVic this year from Bellevue College in Washington. Tibbs had come second in points three times over the opening four games, his top marks coming in a double-double performance with 16 points and 10 assists against the Cavaliers. Tibbs is looking more and more like a point guard who will be able to deliver clutch performances for the Vikes. He should go a long way to fill the hole left by departing senior guard Michael Acheampong.

UVic showed no signs of slowing down as the regular season got underway this past weekend, sweeping a prairie road trip with wins over the Brandon Bobcats and Regina Cougars. Evans once again led the charge, following up a game-high 17 points in the 77-50 win over Brandon with a double-double over Regina. Veteran centre Chris McLaughlin added his own double-double during the 78-54 downing of the Cougars, registering a game high in points (17) and rebounds (15).

The Vikes now get set for their home openers at McKinnon Gym, where they were nothing short of dominant last season in posting a 12-1 record. This weekend features a doubleheader against the Fraser Valley Cascades, with tipoffs set for 8 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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