Vikes basketball teams venture into WolfPack’s den looking for wins

If it’s not trains, planes and automobiles, it’s certainly ferries and buses.

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s basketball teams each play seven of their first eight Canada West games on the road, continuing Friday and Saturday in Kamloops, against their Thompson Rivers University WolfPack counterparts.

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“It’s challenging, for sure,” said UVic men’s head coach Craig Beaucamp.

His Vikes (1-3) opened with a split in Winnipeg against the Wesmen before dropping both ends of their cross-strait set against the UBC Thunderbirds at CARSA gym and then War Memorial Gym in Vancouver.

To make matters worse, the injury bug has hit early and been voracious. Hayden Lejeune, the Vikes’ starting centre, is out indefinitely. Jason Scully, who scored 18 points in UVic’s last game, joins point-guard Scott Kellum in the concussion protocol.

“We’re obviously missing some bodies. It’s part of the game and you have to deal with it,” said Beaucamp.

“It’s a next-man-up mentality. You focus on weekend to weekend.”

If there is an aspect of court play Beaucamp wants to shore up, it’s the defensive end. The Vikes’ 87-81 loss to U Sports No. 6-ranked UBC in Vancouver last Saturday showed the Vikes can score. That is especially so for the dynamic Mason Loewen, who added 26 points to go with his eight rebounds and eight assists. But that doesn’t matter when you’re leaking points at the other end.

“We are looking for consistency at the defensive end,” said Beaucamp.

“You can’t put that kind of pressure on your offence where it has to score up to 90 points to win.”

The tight loss in Vancouver was heartening at least on some levels, especially after the 26-point blowout defeat against UBC that preceded it at home.

“It was a two-point game in the rematch all the way through, against a national top-10 opponent, and there were some good things to build off in that game,” said Beaucamp.

Thompson Rivers (1-1 and coming off an early bye week) swept UVic last season, giving the Vikes even more to think about on the bus up to the Interior.

“TRU is a solid team and is right in that middle group in the conference,” said Beaucamp.

The UVic Vikes women’s squad, meanwhile, heads into Kamloops 3-1 in conference play while the WolfPack are winless at 0-2.

“We have to be aware they are hungry and will be looking to win in their opening weekend at home,” said UVic head coach Dani Sinclair.

“You can never overlook any team. We are not focusing on wins and losses and where we are in the standings. We want to continue improving and playing as a team.”

The female Vikes are also not without their injury woes.

“Two of our best players, Marissa Dheensaw [out for the season with an ACL tear] and Kristy Gallagher [gone until at least December with a knee issue] are out and we have had to compensate as a group,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair added that Callie McMillan and Morgan Roskelley have had to fill in as a tag team at point guard in the absence of Gallagher.

“That’s a huge role to take on. I am pleased how our group as a whole has evolved this season,” said Sinclair.

Meanwhile, fifth-year shooting star Amira Giannattasio has been named both Canada West and U Sports female athlete of the week for her 44 points in the triple-overtime loss against UBC that broke two-time Olympian Carol Turney Loos’ old Vikes team record of 42 points from a game in 1978. Turney Loos, however, amassed her total against Saskatchewan in regulation time and before the advent of the three-point line. But that doesn’t take away from Giannattasio’s feat, which is the fourth-highest single-game total in Canada West history.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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