Thursday, August 28, 2008

The GBU: Queen's versus Anderson

Breaking down tonight's men exhibition basketball match between Queen's and the Anderson University Ravens, a Division I NCAA school from Anderson, Indiana...

The score: 91-72, Anderson.

How I saw it: In person, at Bartlett Gym on the Queen's campus.

The Good:

- Mitch Leger: Leger starred for Queen's in their first exhibition match against Northeastern University on Monday night, pouring in 20 points and adding five rebounds in a close 69-59 defeat to a strong Huskies' squad. He delivered an even better performance tonight, notching 28 points (12-19 from the field, four of eight from the line) and ten rebounds (five offensive, five defensive). The 6'7'' Leger looks to be in strong form again this season, and he'll be a key component of this year's Gaels' team. He was named Player of the Game for his efforts.

- Rob Shaw: The Gaels' veteran big man was in fine form, grabbing seven rebounds (four on the offensive glass) and notching six points in only 16 minutes of playing time.

- Bernard Burgessen: The highly-touted Gaels' recruit from Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia showed plenty of promise against the Ravens. He played 13 minutes and only put up one point, but demonstrated plenty of defensive talent.

- The Gaels' second-half shooting: The Queen's squad couldn't hit a basket in the first half for love or money, going 11 for 35 from the field (31.4 per cent), but their shooting improved dramatically in the second half, where they were 18 for 32 from the field (56.3 per cent), pulling their overall field goal percentage up to 43.3 percent for the game.

- The Bad:

- Mike Russell:The 5'10'' guard from Indianapolis lit up his taller opponents for 26 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Interestingly, plenty of Russell's points came off drives and layups deep inside the paint against Queen's big men, unusual for a small guard. He was also five-for-eight from beyond the ark and five-for-six from the line. The Ravens pulled him later in the game once it was comfortably in hand, so he achieved his stellar totals in only 23 minutes of action.

- Anderson's shooting: The Ravens absolutely torched the Gaels in all shooting categories, beating them from the field (50.0 per cent to 43.3 per cent), from downtown (46.7 per cent to 31.6 per cent) and from the line (80.8 per cent to 44.4 per cent). They did a terrific job of executing the pick-and-roll to create stellar looks for their shooters, who often were wide open for three-point attempts. The Ravens were especially lights-out in the second half, where they shot 69.6 per cent from the field, 66.7 per cent from beyond the arc and 83.3 per cent from the charity stripe.

- Queen's secondary scoring: With Queen's basketball last year, Leger was almost guaranteed to put up 15 or more points every night and close to ten rebounds. As other teams usually had a star to match him, the Gaels' success or failure frequently depended on the efforts they got from their supporting cast. Those numbers may drop off this year, though, with the departures of Simon Mitchell and Travis Mitchell, two of the Gaels' better scorers from last year. Certainly, the Gaels' secondary cast didn't impress tonight: after Leger's 28 points, the team's next-highest scorer was Ondul, and he had to take 13 shots in 31 minutes to put up 13 points. No other Gael even hit double digits. Tonight's performance may not be entirely reflective of the coming season, as head coach Rob Smart spread the minutes around quite a bit due to it being an exhibition, but there is potential cause for concern about who will step up.

The Ugly:

- Queen's foul shooting and three-point percentages: The Gaels were pretty awful from beyond the arc, especially in the first half, where they only made one of their six three-point attempts (a 16.7 per cent success rate). They improved slightly in the second, sinking five of 13 attempts (a 38.5 per cent success rate), but their three-point percentage for the match was still a pretty awful 31.6. The chief culprit was guard Baris Ondul, who had a reasonably good match overall, but only sunk two of his eight shots from downtown. They also struggled at the line, sinking only eight of their 18 foul shots (44.4 per cent).

The size mismatch: Queen's had a huge advantage in size, as Anderson only had two players above 6'4'' (6'5'' forward Ryan Fultz and 6'6'' forward Andrew Jones), while the Gaels had six dressed players above that mark (the 6'7'' Leger and Patrick Beswick, the 6'6'' Shaw, Burgessen and Oliver Friesen (a new recruit from my hometown of Surrey, B.C.) and the 6'5'' Nick DiDonato). The Gaels didn't seem to use their size too effectively, however: they frequently scored off possessions in close, but took far too many shots from outside and wasted their height advantage. As Leger said afterwards, "Most of the time we got the ball in the post, good things happened." The Gaels did outrebound the Ravens 41-28, but it made little difference in the end.

- Rob Shaw's struggle for a rebound: Shaw had a good night overall, but his difficulty with one rebound seemed to represent the team's night overall. Shaw missed a layup, and went up for the rebound against a shorter Anderson forward. He couldn't pull it in, though, and only knocked the ball up in the air, where he went for it again. This repeated itself four times before he finally knocked the ball out of bounds, giving the Ravens possession.

Post-game reaction:

- Head coach Rob Smart:

- On the game overall:"We just didn't come out to play. ... We looked so good against Northeastern, so this is disappointing."

- On what went wrong:"We just had a bunch of guys not show up."

- On the team's defensive efforts: "We were awful defensively. If you let them score 90 points, you're in trouble. ... We can score and hit as many three-pointers as we want, but we can’t win without a solid defence."

- On Burgesson's showing: "Bernard went in and played some pretty good defence."

- On how he'd hoped these exhibition games would increase Queen's basketball credentials, perhaps paving the way for trips to the States or exhibitions against higher-profile programs in the future: "From a credentials point of view, it's pretty important. We played Northeastern pretty close, and Northeastern's a good Division I program. ... We climbed to the top of the hill, and fell halfway down [tonight].

- Forward Mitch Leger:

- On Anderson's team: "They ran their offence pretty well. I don't think they defended well, but you don't need to defend well when you score 90 points."

- On the importance of these exhibitions: "They're games that don't mean anything in the standings, but if they mean a lot to us, we'll do well in the season."

- On how CIS basketball in general and the Queen's program in particular compare to the NCAA: "Obviously, we're not going to beat the UNCs and Kansases of this world, but there's teams we can get close to."

Overall thoughts: It wasn't a dismal showing for Queen's, given that it's still early and was only an exhibition. There were a couple lessons to be learned, though. One key message to take away is shot selection: there were plenty of times when the Gaels could have pounded Anderson in the paint, but elected to go for the long jump shots instead, and that didn't work out very well. That leads to the second lesson, on the importance of in-game adjustments. The team did put up better numbers on offence in the second half, but they were still essentially trying the same shots: these ones just went in. They might have done better with a shift in the offensive focus. Obviously, that's tough when you're using a lot of rookies who haven't fully learned the offensive sets, but the Gaels will need to be adaptable once the season rolls around. They also need to find scoring depth: Leger is likely good for close to 20 points a night, but he can't win the game on his own. Finally, they need to find a way to defend against the high screens: time after time, an Anderson player would cut across the top of the key with the ball and kick it out to an open guard, who would bomb away from three-point range while the Queen's defender was still trapped behind the screen set by the first player. That can't happen if the Gaels are to have CIS success this year.

On tap: A 10:00 a.m. game in Ottawa Saturday against the University of South Alabama, and a home game Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. against the University of Buffalo.


  1. Good stuff.... there's always going to be a bit of one step forward, one step back with a young Gaels team, especially in August.

    Basketball teams named the Ravens just give the Gaels so much trouble.

    Carleton won its opener 77-47 over Northeastern -- the Kingston trio of Doornekamp, Turnbull and Saunders had 44 of the 77 points.

    Can we call them the Kingston trio, even though Aaron is from Odessa? It's like, 10 minutes outside the city limits.

  2. That's an impressive win for Carleton. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing how they do against the Jayhawks Saturday. Are you going to that one, Neate, or catching the Queen's - South Alabama one that morning? I'd love to see both in person, but Journal stuff requires me to be around Kingston.

    P.S. As someone who lives on the Surrey/Langley border back home, I'm all in favour of appropriating neighbours' athletes whenever possible. Besides, most of the people reading our respective blogs probably have no clue where Odessa is, so I'd say that "the Kingston Trio" is quite reasonable (even if it sounds like a reggae band!).