UBC Rising at Right Time, Defeating Victoria Vikes- Kamar Burke Registers Monster Game!

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VANCOUVER, BC–There may not be a better starting lineup in the country.

Credit an early start by Doug Plumb, a late explosion by Nathan Yu, and a dominant effort from Kamar Burke for the UBC Thunderbirds 68-52 win over the University of Victoria Vikes Friday, Feb. 10 at UBC’s War Memorial Gym.

The trio of seniors have at times been able to pull back a little due to the great playing of rookie Malcolm Williams and second-year forward Tommy Nixon, but as the calendar nears March and each game becomes more important than the last, it’s the seniors who are pacing the Thunderbirds.

“That’s just a great team. That’s just what a great team does,” said Yu after the game.

“When I get in foul trouble or when Doug gets in foul trouble, one of us just steps it up – and we need that coming down the stretch in playoffs.”

The fifth-year point guard had just three points in the first half and only played limited minutes due to foul trouble. Subbing back on to start the second half, Yu missed his first three shots, then exploded in the final minutes of the frame, scoring 11 points in the final four minutes, and eight straight for UBC to end the third quarter.

Yu ended the game with 22 points, with his final eight from the free-throw line.

Plumb got off to a quick start, scoring the Thunderbirds first six points, but finished with just eight on the night. Although he didn’t put up gaudy scoring numbers, it’s the offence he prevented on the other end that made more of a difference.

Plumb was tasked with guarding UVic’s fifth-year senior Ryan MacKinnon, who came into Friday night averaging 20 PPG, but was held to just 13 on 5-14 shooting.

Then there’s Burke.

At 6-foot-5 (although he often plays like he’s 6-foot-10), Burke overwhelmed the Vikes in the paint and on the glass, finishing with 17 points, 17 rebounds and three steals.

“As soon as I get in my groove, I don’t think I can be stopped to tell you the truth,” said Burke. “Down low, I think I’m more athletic than any guy out here so I just try to go out and be physical.”

Those are bold claims, but Burke backs them up. It’s become routine for the senior to dominate other teams regardless of the size of their front line, and every so often you can catch an opposing player staring wide-eyed at a thunderous flush from Burke.

But this was by no means a blowout. UBC led 19-11 at the end of the first, then gave up five in a row to Victoria at the start of the second to cut it to one possession. The ‘Birds countered with a 9-2 run, but again Victoria showed resilience and kept the lead down to single digits at halftime.

But as Plumb had provided the opening blow and Burke steadily quelled every Vikes run, it was Yu who answered the call of 1865 fans on seniors night, issuing the knockout during his stellar second half and ultimately setting the stage for what should be a heated battle next weekend, as the two teams face off again, this time in Victoria.

“It’s going to be an absolute war,” said Yu. “UVic’s great at home. They’ve got probably one of the best home gyms in the Canada West so it’s going to be a packed house. It’s their senior’s night, and it’ll be fun to try and go spoil it.”

As both squads each sport 13-4 records and sit tied atop the Canada West’s Pacific Division, the showdown on the island next weekend will decide who gets home-court advantage in the playoffs.

But for now, the Thunderbirds are just thankful for the week off between games,for the first time since the winter break.

For Yu, it’s all business.

“It’s just another week to prepare. It’s another week of practice, it should be fun. Obviously they’re going to make some adjustments, we’re going to have to make some adjustments, so it’s really a chess game right now.”

For Burke, it’s apparent that posting 17 and 17 takes a lot out of you.

“After a battle like this? I played about 38 minutes so I’m happy [for the break]. I need the rest right now.”

The regular season closer tips off at 8:00 pm at Victoria’s McKinnon Gym on Friday, Feb. 17.

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