Friday, February 01, 2008

Campus Corner: Friday night, time to shoot out the lights

The men's basketball team has been getting a fair amount of coverage lately, but they were upstaged by the women tonight. Only three days after their surprising loss to the 2-16 Ottawa Gee-Gees, the women rebounded with a huge 75-69 upset of the 13-5 Laurentian Voyageurs. They held highly-regarded All-Canadian Cassandra Carpenter to just 16 points, and only two in the first half. Nicely enough, this prevented Carpenter from breaking the CIS record for career points against Queen's. She'll almost certainly attain the record tomorrow night against the hapless Royal Military College Paladins (still winless!), but at least it won't have happened against the Gaels. Laurentian came on towards the end when the Gaels got into foul trouble, but Queen's led for most of the game after the first quarter (aided by outscoring the Voyageurs 32-15 in the second frame).

By the way, Carpenter didn't really impress me. Sure, she's got a good shot and sees the court well, but she flops around more than the Italian national soccer team. There were several times during the game where she'd run into a defender (usually Maddie Soye, Alaina Porter or Sarah Barnes), fall to the ground, and writhe around in mortal agony, only to get up and drain a couple foul shots as if nothing had happened (8 of her points were from the line by the way, as she shot a poor 4/13 from the field). She also had only four assists to go with her atrocious seven turnovers. It might have just been an off-night for her, but on tonight's performance alone, I won't be joining the fan club.

The Gaels also got some help from an unexpected source. The men's volleyball team had tonight's road game against Laurier moved to Sunday due to the storm (for anyone not in Ontario, it's pretty crazy here at the moment), so they showed up en masse at the gym to cheer on the women's basketball team despite their own 8 A.M. departure tomorrow. They were effective hecklers from the front row, and particularly got into Carpenter's head (she turned and gave them the finger at one point). In fact, both Barnes and Porter made special mention of the help from the volleyball guys in my post-game interviews with them. Queen's could use more fans like that.

Tomorrow night, the women face league-leading York (16-3). They'll be trying for two upsets in a row, but it will certainly be a difficult task. Frankly, coming out of this weekend with the two points they've already got is a huge victory on its own.

As an aside, the women's game featured some questionable officiating towards both sides. The Gaels were getting called for absolutely nothing most of the game (one of my favorites was where Carpenter absolutely bowled over Barnes with an elbow and still picked up the foul), which led to head coach Dave Wilson getting a technical partway through for his opinions on the quality of the refereeing. However, partway through the fourth quarter, it was if the officials flipped a switch and went for the even-up calls: they started calling phantom fouls on Laurentian and ignoring real ones by the Gaels. Both coaches wound up criticizing the referees in my interviews, which shows balance, but also that there might be a problem with the quality of the calls. Even though the poor officiating wound up helping both sides, it still wasn't a good showing for the refs, especially in front of a knowledgeable basketball audience. They interfered with the flow of the game far too much, and called too many fouls in general (both Sarah Barnes and Teddi Firmi fouled out, along with a couple of Voyageurs, and there were at least four or five more players sitting on four fouls by the end). This doesn't help a league that struggles for credibility at times.

The men's game produced pretty much what everyone expected, as the Gaels gave the Voyageurs a 81-57 drubbing. Star forward Mitch Leger proved that my injury worries were unfounded, pouring in 24 points in only 25 minutes. He also added 12 boards, 2 steals and an assist to claim the double-double. Travis Mitchell chipped in 17 points, while Rob Shaw and Dan Banister both had 11, and the team as a whole shot an impressive 50 per cent from the field and 43.5 per cent from deep.

Things were closer than head coach Rob Smart would have liked in the first half (40-27 lead at the break), but the Gaels stepped it up in the second and never looked back. The game gave Smart an opportunity to work in more of his rookies than normal, expanding the playing time of those who already feature (like Nick DiDonato and Jon Ogden) while allowing other rookies who normally sit on the bench (Alex Murphy and Patrick Beswick) to get some valuable minutes.

The team's looking pretty healthy at present, too, which can only be a good thing going forward. Point guard Baris Ondul put in 25 minutes, notching six points, four steals, three assists and a rebound, which shows that he's close to 100 per cent. Smart said Beswick's fully recovered from his concussion, and the Gaels were able to dress 11 guys (a far cry from the eight who featured against Ryerson a couple weeks ago). That can only bode well for a stretch run.

The men are in an odd position at the moment. Their 11-7 record means there isn't too much hope of them catching Toronto (13-4) for the third playoff spot, but there's no way 5-12 Ryerson can edge them out of fourth. Thus, it's important for them to keep the pressure on in case the Blues tank, but there's also that sense of meaningless games. Smart and Leger both told me it can be a bit of a challenge to stay focused, which should make tomorrow night's match with York interesting. The 5-13 Lions have been hot lately, demolishing Laurentian and Ryerson by scores of 96-65 and 72-53 respectively, and only losing to No. 7 Toronto by six last weekend. Smart said the Gaels can't afford to take them lightly. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Related: Mark Wacyk's take and news from around the league over at

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