Saturday, February 02, 2008

Campus Corner: Saturday night's all right for b-ball

The 8-11 women's team, fresh off an upset of the 13-6 Laurentian Voyageurs, almost made it two in a row against the OUA East-leading York Lions (16-3 heading in to tonight's game), but came up just short, losing 71-66 in overtime. Queen's trailed 29-21 at the half, but outscored York 22-14 in the third and held them even in the fourth to force the extra frame.

It really didn't need to go that far, though. With less than a minute to go and the score knotted at 60, Queen's star forward Sarah Barnes hauled down a defensive rebound and started a fast break, but point guard Teddi Firmi missed a tightly contested layup that could have given the Gaels the lead. On the ensuing Lions drive, Queen's forward Anne Murphy fouled York's Emily Van Hoof, who led York with 21points on the night. Van Hoof went to the line, but missed both shots, perhaps thrown off by the noise from the stands. They were the only foul shots she missed all night in a 9-for-11 effort from the line. Queen's then took the ball with 18.9 seconds left and drove down the court, but couldn't crack York's defense for a
game-winning basket. Barnes eventually launched a three, but it fell short and the teams headed to overtime.

In overtime, Queen's had plenty of chances. Barnes was outstanding early, making a steal and hitting a layup. She then sunk two free throws after being fouled on the Gaels' next possession, part of her 22 points on the night. Queen's hung with York for a while, but conceded too many free throws, and York went an astonishing 11 for 12 from the line in extra time to clinch the victory.

Barnes, who was playing her final regular-season home game for the Gaels, and head coach Dave Wilson both said they were disappointed not to get the win, but took some comfort from sticking with a top team like the Lions for so long. Looking at their performances this weekend, it's tough not to agree: they've shown they can play with the best in the league. However, the issue now is finding consistency: this is, after all, the team that lost to the 2-18 Ottawa Gee-Gees only last Tuesday. Interestingly enough, the Gaels play Ottawa and 6-14 Carleton again on the road next weekend. A pair of wins would give them some solid momentum heading into the playoffs, especially as there's a good chance they'll face the Ravens in the first round. Wilson, Barnes and Anne Murphy all mentioned that they'd like to avenge Tuesday's defeat to Ottawa, so the Gaels seem to have some extra motivation for that clash on Friday.

One final note from this game: Firmi again had a solid game with five assists, five points and eight rebounds, third-best in the game (behind only Van Hoof's 13 boards and Barnes' nine). However, she fouled out for the third game in a row. Granted, this time it wasn't until overtime, but I'm sure Wilson will be bugging her about that: the Gaels are a better team with her on the floor, so it's important for her to be more careful about fouls.

The men's game was pretty much as expected, as Queen's beat 5-13 York 74-67 to improve their own conference play record to 12-7. As I predicted yesterday, it was closer than the team's records would suggest. This time, however, the prediction worked out but the reasoning didn't. By all logic, Queen's should have run away with this game: they thoroughly outplayed York for most of the game, and they were getting ridiculously good looks at three-point shots, which normally spells disaster for the opposition. This time, though, Queen's couldn't hit a three for love or money in the first half: they were a lousy 3of 17 (18%) from deep in the first two quarters, and were even outscored 16-9 in the second frame, which meant that they held a slender 27-25 lead at the half.

The Gaels turned it around in the second though, and their shots started falling. The outcome was never really in question after Queen's went on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter. Their field goal percentage jumped from 30% to 57%, and they hit eight out of 16 threes for an astonishingly high 50% success rate. They outscored York 21-14 in the third, and only lost the fourth quarter by two points (28-26) despite some horrible turnovers and fouls near the end.

As expected, star forward Mitch Leger led the Gaels with 18 points, but it wasn't one of his greatest nights: he went six for 20 from the field, and hit just one of nine from downtown. He did add seven rebounds, though, which tied him for the team lead with rookie Nick DiDonato. The Mitchell brothers both had solid games: Travis put up 14 points and added five rebounds and three steals, while Simon recorded eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Rookie forward Jon Ogden also played well, notching 14 points and adding five rebounds. Guard Tut Rauch was the story for the Lions, as he recorded 29 points, almost half of their total offensive output. The Lions also went 21-24 from the foul line, which helped them keep it close.

Interestingly enough, Smart, Ogden and Simon Mitchell all agreed that nothing really changed from the first to the second half. They were getting similar looks, but the shots they missed in the first just started to drop in after the break. What I found particularly interesting was the difference in Smart's reactions after tonight's game and last night's thumping of Laurentian. Last night, they had a much bigger halftime lead (40-27 as opposed to 27-25), but Smart was really unhappy with their play in the first half. Tonight, with only a two-point margin, he wasn't all that disappointed in the team's early play: he recognized that they were playing well, but the shots just weren't falling. That's good coaching, if you ask me: knowing when to fume and knowing when your guys are already doing well, but it just isn't working. There's more to sports than the scoreline, as the piece I wrote for my Journal blog on today's Tottenham-Manchester United clash shows.

Next weekend, the Gaels face Ottawa and Carleton in a pair of tough matches. 15-4 Ottawa may be vulnerable, though: they dropped a 78-69 decision to Toronto tonight, and lost star guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe in the process. Sean Peter also didn't dress for the Gee-Gees, and it will be good news for the Gaels if one or both of them can't play Friday night: the duo combined for 31 points in Ottawa's close win over Queen's Tuesday night. Carleton looked invincible as always with a 100-77 win over Ryerson, but as I'm hoping is the case tomorrow, it's not always possible to maintain perfection. Simon Mitchell said the Gaels want to come out of next weekend with at least one win: that would certainly be an impressive outcome, regardless of which side they beat.

- Mark Wacyk's piece at on the men's game.
- I'll have full stories on both games in Tuesday's Journal.
- Met up with Brock Harrison from the Kingston Whig-Standard at tonight's games: he should have pieces on both in Monday's paper.

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