VANCOUVER – There are moral victories you don't really want to talk about.
Friday night's one for the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team in a 96-72 loss at the nationally-ranked UBC Thunderbirds?
Head coach Eric Magdanz could hardly put down the phone.
Despite missing their leading scorer Ali Raza due to illness, the undermanned Griffins walked into UBC's War Memorial Gym and gave the No. 6-ranked Thunderbirds a real test. They trailed by just eight points with seven minutes left in the contest before their opponent's pedigree proved too much.
"We battled our hearts out tonight," said Magdanz. "There are spots along the way where you can grade yourself against some of the best teams in the country and this was an opportunity tonight for us.
"We found out that we have room to grow, but we have the players here that have the opportunity to grow into very good players and lead us to hopefully one day be nationally ranked. It's just going to take us some time for us to grow as a team."
Jake Notice had 17 points, four assists and three steals, while Lincoln Anderson also bucketed 17 in 18 minutes off the bench – getting hot from behind the arc with five threes on nine attempts. Deonte Doslov-Doctor scored 10 points.
"It opened up a lot of opportunities for players to have a bigger role this weekend," said Magdanz of playing without Raza. "Atlas (St. Paul-Butler) had the opportunity for the first start of his career at MacEwan. He had a great game. And it gave the opportunity for Lincoln to come in off the bench and shoot really well.
"Both those guys battled Canada West player of the year Conor Morgan defensively. Even when we look at that, we held him five points under his season average, so we played really well tonight."
Morgan was second in UBC scoring with 20 points as Luka Zaharijevic led the team with a big double-double – 22 points and 11 rebounds. Mason Bourcier also had a double-double for the Thunderbirds with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Taylor Browne also found double digits in points with 14.
Despite the loss, Magdanz was pleased with his team's poise in matching up against one of the best teams in the country.
"I think we came out at the beginning of the game and came out aggressive," he said. "War Memorial arena is a pretty amazing place to play with all the history behind it and the atmosphere the arena has. You could tell when we walked in it was a bit of an a-ha moment for our team that we're ready for the big time here.
"As the first quarter went on, we hit a couple shots, we guarded, we rebounded and you could just see every possession we were gaining confidence in who we are as players and who we are as a team. I think tonight gave us an opportunity to see we're on the right track, we just have to stay committed to the process."
With the result, UBC improves to 12-3, while MacEwan falls to 4-11. The teams will meet again on Saturday night (8 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).