Basketball: Gee-Gees crush Marauders, showing it's Ottawa, Carleton and then everyone else in the OUA

TORONTO — The Mattamy Athletic Centre seemed poised to host a classic battle between two OUA heavyweights, but instead saw a dazzling scoring performance and end-to-end dominance.

In a 101-68 win, the Ottawa Gee-Gees showed just why they have been the No. 2-ranked team for the majority of the 2013-14 season. The OUA West leading McMaster Marauders had no answer for the barrage, as Ottawa shot 38-57 from the field – good for 56.7%.

“I think today, we showed offence and defence, which is a change for us,” said Gee-Gee guard, Mike L’Africain. “[Mac] played hard but we have so many weapons out there. Our offence, to be honest, feels like it’s always clicking.”

L’Africain started out the game shooting 5-6 overall and 4-5 from deep. His shots came on difficult looks, through a mixture of pull-up jumpers, step-back threes and corner long-balls, especially difficult in a cavernous gym.

Ottawa head coach James Derouin was cautious about the win, pointing to McMaster’s inability to make shots at the free-throw line (11-26) as a sign that the game could have been closer than the box score shows. The dazzling field goal percentage didn’t surprise him, though.

“We felt confident coming in. I felt that because we had played here – we had a great shoot-around, great warm-up, great practice upstairs… Now, we have to reload for tomorrow,” said the coach.

It’s Derouin’s fourth year as the head coach of the Gee-Gees, and he’s created an offensive powerhouse. Johnny Berhanemeskel led the team in scoring, dropping 26 points on 11-14 shooting, L’Africain was behind him with 19 points and Terry Thomas – a St. F-X transfer – finished right behind him with 17 points. The highlight of the game was a Thomas slam over Rohan Boney.

With the victory, Ottawa earns a berth in the CIS Final 8. Just getting a spot in the tournament isn’t enough for the bench boss of 2013’s CIS Bronze medal winners.

“A No. 1 ranking at Nationals is the key to success. Even if we do end up two or three, there is nothing better than getting a No. 1 seed and a lighter first game,” explained Derouin.

The OUA West Coach of the Year Amos Connolly was surprisingly upbeat in the post-game interview, accepting defeat at the hands of a better team.

“That’s life, I’ve been here before,” said Connolly first to the media scrum. “I don’t think our guys weren’t ready to play. I don’t mean they weren’t ready to play, I think we weren’t in the right place. Is that our conference, is that our style of play or the way we practice?”

But Mac still has an opportunity to play in to the CIS Final 8, should they win tomorrow’s game against the Windsor Lancers. The numbers were ugly across the board for the Marauders: 25-67 from the field, 7-21 from three 11-26 at the line. Connolly pointed out that the teams tied in shots attempted, turnovers and only lost the rebounding battle by six.

Top scorers for Mac were Nathan McCarthy and Trevon McNeil, who both scored 14 points. Taylor Black and Joe Rocca – fresh off OUA First Team All-Star nods – had zero and two points, respectively. They combined for 1-12 shooting.

Ottawa will now face off against Carleton, and the Ravens own the only two losses on the Gee-Gees record. The margin of victory for the reigning Wilson Cup champions is 45 points in two games. Windsor will play Mac for the Final 8 berth, and less importantly, OUA Bronze.

Stray observations:

  • McMaster forward Taylor Black said before the game that Terry Thomas could struggle with the athletes Mac has on the perimeter. Thomas said he didn’t have a tough time with the Marauders, and when asked if Mac was defensively easier to prepare for than Ryerson, he said “definitely.” He also said that Mac runs “about three offensive sets,” while Ryerson runs about ten.
  • The game was televised on Sportsnet One, which is a specialty channel not offered in most basic cable packages. Sportsnet Ontario was showing Friday Night Hockey: Owen Sound @ London, while Sportsnet 360 was showing WWE Smackdown. Interesting to see a product trying to grow in a market where students are careful where they spend money stashed on a channel that costs extra cash.
  • McMaster was the closest school to the Ryerson gym, and they could not fill a bus for students to make the hour-long ride down. Still, the fans that did attend were the most vocal group in the building before being effectively muted by a strong Gee-Gee first quarter.
  • The crowd in attendance was much older than I expected. Granted, it is my first Final Four I’ve seen live, but the average age was north of 40. Does the OUA have a demographic problem?
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